It was a typically chilly September morning in Melbourne. People were starting to arrive at the old stone church building while we finished setting up. The data-projector had been connected, the sound check complete; my host and I had gone through the runsheet. I waited nervously at the tall wooden doors at the entrance to welcome people to my first God Conversations seminar.
The call had been to ‘teach people to hear God’s voice’ but how did one do that? There was no script for this – no manual titled ‘Itinerating for Dummies’. The only itinerant ministers I knew of were from America. They spoke in mega-churches, had TV shows and travelled with an entourage. No-one else to seemed to know either. When I told people about my vision, they looked puzzled and changed the subject.
In my years of ministry I had learned that knowing how to recognise God’s voice was one of the most common struggles people faced. We talk of a ‘personal relationship’ with God, but how do you know someone unless you hear from them regularly? So many people I’d met struggled to pinpoint a time when God had spoken clearly to them. They would say things like; ‘Well ten years ago, God spoke to me’ or ‘When I first became a Christian, I heard God’s voice.’ But even then, there was a high degree of uncertainty attached to the experience.
Yet people loved the idea of hearing from God. When the prophetic ministry came to town they would queue in a race to the front row to ‘get a word from God’. It felt like a throw-back to the olden days.
The prophets of ancient times alone had the hotline to God and the common people had to go to God via them. They wore hessian cloaks and long beards and would see all sorts of mystical visions. They were hotly sought after for divine advice and foresight. Even kings would consult them.
But this was the new covenant. Everything changed when the Spirit came. The Apostle Peter had stood up in the midst of the crowd drunken with the Spirit and said that now everyone could to prophesy and have dreams and visions. The hotline to heaven was open! It was no longer the domain of these specially marked prophets.
So why was people’s experience today so removed from the promise given to the church in the first century?
The question has stirred and gnawed at me for years. How was it that the one thing that created intimacy with God was so lacking from our experience? How could we be content to read God’s conversations with others yet feel the lack in our own life? How was someone supposed to be in a personal relationship if the communication was always one-way?
I knew how people felt because I had felt the same way. Twenty years ago, I first learnt that God could speak. The thought thrilled me, so I set out to find out what he sounded like. That journey – the experiences; the reflection and the studies along the way became the foundation of my ministry.
Years on, God spoke to me through a prophecy: “You do hear from God and your job is to teach others” he said. As always, the ministry began with God speaking. His idea, his call and his preparation.
The TV/DVD series: The Other Side of the Conversation (now available for purchase at Koorong) is one tool that we pray will take other people on a journey of learning to recognise God’s voice – perhaps with a shortcut – so that those who want to know can learn from the things I wish someone had taught me.
3 weeks until the series Launch on Australian Christian Channel!
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