Friday, October 31, 2003

Naturally Supernatural

Do you ever wonder what is natural and what is spirit... when you have a 'word' for someone... how much is just understanding people and recognizing signs and body language and how much is divine revelation?

It's always left me wondering if I were hearing God or hearing intuition and it bugs me sometimes. Not long ago there were several people gathered around the front of the church for prayer and I eyeballed one couple that I had never met before... and their body language, the way she gripped his arm, communicated a message to me... a very obvious message... so I went up and said "It appears to me that the two of you are dealing with a recently revealed infidelity and you don't know if there's hope for your marriage... if its worth the effort to try to stay together". WOW... they freaked... he couldn't believe I knew and she began sobbing uncontrollably... It was right where they were at... he had confessed less about 2 weeks ago and she was totally broken... and they had told nobody. I ministered to them for an hour. In my wife's opinion (and most anyone else, I suppose) that is a word of knowledge or wisdom... and I honestly don't know if its that or just a natural ability to read people combined with the boldness to act on it.

This is not a new struggle for me... I have asked this question many times throughout the course of my ministry. The Lord did make it pretty clear to me a few years ago to not attribute to my own wisdom the gifts he gives me but I obviously haven't completely resolved the issue. I am still reluctant to uncategorically call what happened that night an exercise of the gifts of the spirit because it seemed like such a natural understanding. Maybe that's what John Wimber used to call "Naturally Supernatural".

There are good reasons I believe for some caution. If you have been around groups like the Vineyard where personal prophecy and words of knowledge are prevalent then you have certainly encountered many well-meaning but utterly ridiculous "Thus saith the Lord" moments. There are several spiritual no-no's that I really work to avoid. My least favorite one is the 'generic word'. I was praying for a lady a few days ago and another person joined me to minister to the woman. They began to pray things like "You struggle with self-esteem issues and God wants to show you his love". Although the truth of the message that God wants to show his love is undisputable the "revelation" of a woman with low self-esteem is kind of like shooting a shotgun into a birdcage. You're not likely going to miss! Statistically low self-esteem is the major issue in almost every woman's life. You could do the same with men by having a word that they "struggle with a pure mind".... duh!!! That type of 'word' amounts to manipulation and I hate it with a passion.

I'm rambling now, but this brings up a point. God does not reveal his power to people who are not put at risk if he fails to move. That sounds pretty dogmatic, I know, but what I mean is that if you are not willing to step out on a limb and risk failure you are not likely to hear many real words of knowledge from the Spirit... and "self-esteem" or "pure mind" words are not usually risky... the corollary then is that they are not likely real words from the Spirit but are more likely a projection of the person praying's own battles. We assume that what we struggle with is likely everyone else's struggle and it works its way out in our prayers.

One of the other things I try to avoid is giving a statement a "The Lord Says..." prefix. Some people we minister to can distinguish on their own what is and isn't from God... but many can't... and we tread dangerous territory when we attribute words coming from our mouth to divine authority. If we "know in part and prophesy in part" (1cor 13:9) then it's obvious that what comes out our mouth is filtered by our own mind, experience and interpretation. Then it seems much more prudent to deliver a word with something like "It appears to me "... or "I believe the Lord may have shown me...." This type of delivery leaves people an option of receiving or rejecting the word as divine and anything less than that is manipulative. It is not our job to coerce a response... only to deliver a message.

While I'm on the subject... the types of words we should be offering...1 Cor. 14:3 says words are for strengthening, encouragement and comfort. The beauty of this is that anyone is free to offer words that strengthen, encourage and comfort. Is my word from God? Run it through this filter... then, even if its totally a product of your own imaginings then the worst that can happen is that it encourages... now that's user friendly prophecy.

We are not free to give words of instruction under normal circumstances. I see many people give what is probably a true word to someone then proceed to undermine it by offering interpretations and directions that are not inspired. My very first experience with a word of knowledge was in a small group. I proceeded to tell someone of the word I felt like God had given me for them and I then began to elaborate on it with an interpretation that was neither inspired nor uplifting. One of the leaders in the room gently took me aside after the meeting and said, "Only speak what the Father is speaking" (John 5:19). He continued "We are safe if we deliver a true message but we have to learn to stop where the message stops".

I will write more later on other filters to use for discerning the prophetic.

I would be interested in hearing from you about your own experiences or rules you minister by... and your own interpretations of my personal struggles with attribution of giftings.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

A Reader Responds...

I was reading your latest blogs and remembered a conversation my wife and I had after the concert last Sunday. She mentioned how Ben, Lori and their group were playing with passion. You could sense it in their songs and see it in their faces. Maybe that's what you and Jerry were blogging about... the difference between musician-ing and minister-ing. But how do you infuse it into your team members? If we love singing to Jesus, why don't we reflect it more?

Reply from Duke........
I would add that Ben & Lori were definitely 'musician-ing' as well. Their sound was excellent and their music was tight and well rehearsed. It is in addition to that exellence that we can add that they were passionate. A passionate BAD musician wouldn't do much for you...

To your point, though, it is kind of sad when the band members appear to be unmoved or untouched by the music that they're playing. Sometimes it is simply boredom... we have ('we' meaning leaders) asked them to play some pretty lame stuff from time to time and its hard for anyone to get passionate over some of our songs. But even with songs that can invoke passion... it all starts with leadership. The leader must 'act' passionate. Ok, there, I said it... 'ACT'... There is a time when we all feel less exhuberent than we would like and we can 'act' enthusiastic... You can create an atmosphere of passion by 'acting' with passion. Do the things you normally do but do them passionately. I hear leaders often say "but, that's not me... not who I am naturally" and I say... so what... I think its Dale Carnegie who says "If you act enthusiastic then you'll be enthusiastic". That's very true... your emotions will follow your actions and your actions will follow your decisions. Decide to act and your feelings will follow... if you act passionate even when you don't feel particularly passionate your actions will bring the emotions into line. And, better yet, those you lead will also see their emotions coming into line with yours.
Another thing... don't 'direct' things so tightly that your band isn't allowed to be expressive. If you make your vision or goal for the particular service known and give them some ownership for it then they become more integrated into it... not just a 'musician'... they get to be a 'minister'.

Friday, October 3, 2003

Enter the Worship Circle

I wanted to share this past weekend's concert experience because I plan to springboard off of this event for the next few discussions and I don't want you to be lost.

This past weekend we hosted a concert by Ben & Lori Kennedy. The Kennedy's are part of the "Worship Circle" group that puts out the "Enter the Worship Circle" CD's. The concert was one of the more ambitious endeavors our church has taken on since I've been here, and it was a real experiment in organization and motivation. We had a relatively short notice from the time we confirmed the concert date... only about 3 weeks to promote and prepare.

Since the target audience for Worship Circle tends to be College aged young adults I recruited this age group's assistance right from the start. They jumped in with both feet and handled the vast majority of the publicity and promotion... putting nearly 100 posters up in coffee houses, bookstores, restaurants, etc. They arranged local radio spots including an on air interview with the artist a few days preceding the concert.

Others really got involved as the momentum began to build toward the concert. Some of our members volunteered to update our cafe and have it fully operational for the evening concert... others handled registration tables and music tables. The result was that we truly were able to put our best foot forward. The event drew between 250 and 300 people... many of whom had never been in our church before.

The concert itself was awesome... Ben & Lori and their band led with a powerful acoustic alternative style heavy on percussion. The stage lights we brought in and the subwoofer we rented gave the feel of a large concert. Most of the young people in attendance were totally involved... dancing and celebrating throughout. The energy and the passion was thick... like you were surrounded by it.

Now, a few days later, my preoccupation is to tap into the momentum created and not let this become a one-time high but to see what we can take from it for the future. I will be interested in your input as I discuss some of these things.