Leadership 101 - How to hear from God, part 2
How do we lead our ministries? How do we make decisions? How do we design our programmes?
Do we build great teams and lean on their wisdom? Do we investigate examples of best practice and imitate them? Do we consult stakeholders and apply their feedback, or do we measure key metrics and act on the implications?
All of these are good and important. All are helpful in determining direction. But if these practices are at the foundation of our leadership, decision-making, and direction, we are not leading like Jesus, who offered this as his philosophy for ministry: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19).
Jesus' direction was determined by his father’s command, and if we are to lead effective and fruitful ministries, we must do likewise. As important as it is to build great teams, learn from best practice, gather data, and consult key stakeholders, all of this must be secondary to hearing the voice of the Father and acting accordingly. Perhaps the most important thing a leader can do is to learn to recognise and respond to the voice of God.
So how does he speak? Here are nine ways we see God communicate in Scripture …
Through the Bible: The first, most important, and most reliable way God speaks is through his Word (see 1 Samuel 3:21). We must measure anything we think we’ve heard from God via another means against what God has already said through Scripture. And if it contradicts it, we discard it.
Pictures, dreams, and visions: God designed us with something wonderful, something uniquely human … an imagination. And God uses that space to speak to us (see Job 33:14-15). The “mind’s eye” is where God will show something to us, in order to say something to us.
Audible voice: Though less common, God may speak through an audible voice, as we see at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:17.
Impressions: This is what some call the ‘inner-witness of the Spirit,’ where "the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit…" (Romans 8:16). It is an inner-leading, a guiding, a sense of “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28).
Through others: There are times when God chooses to speak to us by giving others a word for us: a word of knowledge, a word of encouragement, or a word of prophecy. For a great example of this, check out Acts 21:10-12, where God speaks to Paul, through Agabus.
Circumstances: Where God lines up the circumstances in order to lead us in a certain direction; where there are way too many coincidences for them to be coincidences. Check out Acts 6:6-10 where Paul and his companions experience a certain set of circumstances determining their steps, and conclude that this is the leading of God.
Music: The Kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom had joined forces to go to war against the Moabites. After seven days of marching with their armies, they ran out of water and so had nothing for the soldiers or their animals to drink. So the Kings call upon the prophet Elisha to enquire of the Lord on their behalf to see what they should do. It’s interesting to note the environment Elisha requests to enable him to hear from God: "But now bring me a harpist.” While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha and he said, “This is what the LORD says …” (2 Kings 3:15-16). There is something about music that enables Elisha to become aware of God’s presence and attentive to his voice. And if it’s good enough for Elisha, it’s good enough for us.
Objects: God will sometimes speak to us through the things around us; things that we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands. As he did with Jeremiah: "This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel … Then the word of the Lord came to me" (Jeremiah 18:1-3, 5). God draws Jeremiah’s attention to something material and speaks to him through what he sees.
Creation: God speaks through the works of his hands; he reveals something of who he is through what he has made (See Psalm 19:1-2).
So how does God speak to you? Where might you need to be alert to his voice in ways you had previously overlooked?
However you best hear from God, let’s all be attentive to his voice and quick to respond. Let’s build our ministries according to the direction the Lord sets for us. Let’s be leaders who do only what we see the Father doing.
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