Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Connecting to God

On Thursday morning, a few minutes after last posting on my blog, all outside communications in the area where we live went down. A road, not far from our home is being rebuilt due to damage caused by heavy trucks travelling through our town every day and in the process of digging up the old road, the main water line was ripped up together with the main telephone cables. The water pipe was repaired within a few hours but it seems that it will still be a few days before there would be any hope of having communications again. In fact,up to now, nothing has been done yet to start repairing the damage. Fortunately, at the school where my wife is teaching mathematics and computer science, they still have telephone connections and they have graciously given me permission to go to the school to check my e-mail and to do other work on the internet. So here I am, in a school classroom, posting this message!
I’ve just finished reading Bill Hybels’ book, Courageous Leadership. I will definitely be coming back to a number of things he said in this book, but probably of all the things he wrote, the one chapter which touched me the most is his chapter which he calls The Leader’s Pathway. I have dear friends over a fairly wide spectrum of spirituality. On some issues we agree, on some issues we argue and on some we agree to differ. One of the problems with such a diverse group is that all of them believe that they have found the ultimate way of connecting to God. Some of my friends believe that the only way in which one can connect to God is through worship. Others believe that small groups (or cell groups or caring groups or whatever one wishes to call them) is the only true way of connecting to God. For others it is an hour or more of “quiet time” with the Lord everyday. I have a friend who is absolutely diligent in his daily quiet time, just reading through the Bible (and making me feel guilty that I’m not as diligent as he is)!
What Bill Hybels says, and this is exactly how I’ve experienced it in my own life, is that different people connect to God in different ways. I’ve heard it so often that people say that, in order to connect to God you have to be up at (or before) sunrise, giving the best part of the day to God. My problem is, I’m a night-owl. If I have to get up before sunrise I will only be sleeping 3 hours a night! But I’ve had wonderful experiences with the Lord through my study of the Bible at 1 in the morning. And I’m at my happiest learning from the Word of God if I have my Bible open, surrounded with a number of other books which will help me to understand the message in a certain portion even better. Rather than reading 10 chapters a day, I will struggle with a paragraph trying to find the message from God in this paragraph through whatever means I have at my disposal. But some of my friends cannot for the life of them understand how it is possible to hear the Spirit speaking if you’re not in a secluded spot, preferably somewhere in nature: only you, your Bible and God – nothing else!
For many years I’ve had this gut feeling that people are wrong who prescribe how one should connect to God. It was encouraging to read the same in a book of someone with Hybels’ knowledge and experience. He lists a number of possible ways in which people connect to God. Although he admits that the list is not exhaustive, he mentions a number of, what he calls, “pathways to God” such as:

  • The Relational pathway (serving God with others)
  • The Intellectual pathway (studying the Bible with the use of other theological books)
  • The Serving pathway (people who cannot be happy unless they serve others)
  • The Contemplative pathway (being alone with God and contemplating on His Word)
  • The Activist pathway (people who cannot be happy unless they are doing something for the Lord)
  • The Creation pathway (serving God in and through nature)
  • The Worship pathway (using worship as the primary method to connect to God)

In a missionary setup I have often found that missionaries start teaching new Christians about spiritual growth but then using their own preferred method as the ultimate (and only) way to connect to God. And I’m as guilty as anyone else, who have made efforts, especially in my early years in Swaziland, to obtain secondhand commentaries and other theological books to hand out to people to help them in their spiritual growth. But for many this just does not work. Even if their lives depended on it, they still cannot hear the Spirit speaking through a commentary! They need other ways to connect to God.
This gave me much to think about – one question being how much effort I am willing to put in to help people to find their personal way of connecting to God. After reading through this chapter I just felt a wonderful sense of awe in God who created each of us in such an unique way.


Saturday, September 29, 2007 - Posted by | Bill Hybels, Building relations, Indigenous church, Mission, Prayer, Short-term outreaches, Swaziland, Theology, Worship

1 Comment »

  1. Great Post! This is something I have been thinking/struggling about this past year. I came across an Oswald Chambers devotional, who I don’t usually read(not for any particular reason), and he made the following point: Using Genesis 12:8,

    “From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.”

    He goes on to explain that Bethel is the symbol of communion with God. Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two, God and the world. Chambers says, “The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with him. Rush is wrong every time, there is always plenty of time to worship God. Quiet days with God may be a snare. We have to pitch our tents where we will always have a quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be. There are NOT three stages in spiritual life-worship, waiting and work. Some of us go in jumps like spiritual frogs, we jump from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work. God’s idea is that the three should go together. They were always together in the life of Our Lord. He was unhasting and unresting. It is a discipline, we cannot get into it all at once.”

    I used to get so angry at myself for not continuing in the same consistent pattern of devotion with the Lord each day. I wondered why I couldn’t get up every morning for more than a week and consistently be motivated to worship(Afternoons/evenings have always been my normal study/devotional times.) The more I think about it, the more I’m realizing that the time of day and manner of worship are structures(confines) that I have been placing my time with the Lord into. I can’t agree with the “God only speaks to us in the quiet of the mornings philosophy”. God will speak to us whenever he pleases whether or not we are ready or are even in an act of worship. Isn’t that just how most of us have been converted and saved? Last night I learned more about the book of Nehemiah from reading it and praying in a crowded noisy coffee shop/bookstore than I would have from waking up at dawn or journeying to a mountain retreat. Yesterday a friend of mine in Brazil told me she sometimes wakes up at 2 a.m. and prays for me. God bless her and praise God for her motivation, but I don’t think I could ever do that. I’m more alert and can pray better at other times of the day. I think you said it right when you expressed your sense of awe about our God who created each of us in such an unique way.

    Comment by Bryan | Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Reply

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