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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Does God Still Speak?

Written by: on March 10, 2017

Tanya Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist who has written a very interesting book concerning the American evangelical and their relationship with God.  In her book, When God Talks Back, she gives the clearest most positive review of life as an evangelical through the lens of the Vineyard movement.   The language used in her book is inquisitive in nature, as a new outsider examining something with power and intrigue, but not sure of the reasoning behind it.  In here introduction her description of a Vineyard service was spot on and very descriptive.  She approached “evangelical” this way; “The term evangelical is hard to define precisely.  It is typically understood as implying three commitments: belief in the literal or near-literal truth of the Bible; belief that one can be saved only by choosing a personal relationship with Christ, or being “born again”; and belief that one should, to some extent, evangelize and share the new of salvation with other.” [1]   Such clear language is refreshing and life giving.  She did describe the wide range of evangelical from snake handlers to those who want to have a personal walk with Jesus.  In the mix, she includes Jimmy Swaggart to Rick Warren and reviews the “great awakenings” of the church.    Her look at the power of the Holy Spirit and the phenomena that surrounds it; from messages in tongues to the infilling of a person was very well documented. This theological explanation of the American journey of faith is clear and very thorough.

All leading to this thought, Does God still speak? How?

God speaks through thoughts and we must learn to discern between our thoughts and His thoughts.  The authors wrote about developing a “new theory of mind.”[2]  This concept of hearing things that are perceived is a very clinical perspective of how God speaks.  Learning to really trust the “thoughts” as being God’s word directly for the individual is part of the exercise of being a believer.   The quote from C.S. Lewis what explains that some things in Christianity can be understood from the outside but most things are understood after “going a certain distance along the Christian road.”[3]   So how do you even begin to identify the thoughts that are really God or how to pull out what is God from the ordinary static in your mind?[4]  The art of hearing God is still something that resonates within Christianity today.   Prayer as the way to talk to God but also to listen to him can be confusing.  Her explanation of prayer is quite interesting “people must learn to treat some inner mental phenomena as heard by an external presence and other mental phenomena as not their own but as emanating from that presence.”[5]   The honesty of this complication I believe mirrors what many have discovered about God.   There is still something of a mystery when interacting with God and the incredibly exciting thing to me is that he does it personally with individuals.

So, does God still speak?  One of the fascinating things about this book is all the interviews and personal first hand stories that the author tells of individuals who experienced God speaking, God directing, God preventing and God leaving alone in the “wilderness” or isolation.  As I was reading, the thought kept coming to me that this is simply an extension of the book of Acts or a further reading of the experiences recorded in the Bible.   It does take a great amount of faith to believe in God.  It does take a great amount of faith to believe that God wants to and does speak to individuals today.  The synergy of this book makes me want to know God even more personally than I do and gives me a greater picture of who God is.  There are so many dimensions and this book explores them with great insight and with great questions.

Even in the chapter on darkness: “when God doesn’t come through”, the explanation of “name it, claim it” is very matter of fact and from an outsider’s perspective crystal clear.  From “doubting Thomas” to the miracles that Jesus performed, all of this walk of being a Christian is about faith.   Is it real or is it not real?  When things do not go our way is God still God?   Do we trust him even in the moments of darkness?  What about when things do not change for a long time?  Does God still speak when he is silent?  Can Christians become mature in their faith that when things don’t go their way that they still believe?   The author pointed out that this is basically the story of the Gospels as well.    The problem of faith is not finding the idea of God plausible but sustaining that belief in the face of disconfirmation. [6]   Inside the reality of real world fact is where this faith and belief in Jesus become reality.

So, does God still speak?

I know my own personal story, just like the ones in the book, includes God speaking to me directly.  I know without a doubt that in a prayer meeting at the front of Central Assembly in Muskogee at the age of 16 God spoke to my heart to serve him with my life.  I agreed.  I know without a doubt that at the age of 20 God spoke to me, through his word Mark 16:15-20 to make disciples.  It was in my bedroom at my parent’s home in Kingston, OK at 1 in the morning.   I was trying to figure out what to do, go back to OSU or what?  He brought a person across my path whose dad happened to be a Bible university president.  I went to that school to learn to make disciples.  While interning in London, I went to Birmingham, England to a conference on the Holy Spirit with a new evangelist by the name of Reinhardt Bonnke.   He was preaching and during his sermon, God asked me to preach for him.  I told God yes, but I needed a sign to confirm that request.  Reinhardt, who is from Germany, said that he was going to pray in person for everyone who felt called to ministry in his altar call.   He stated that he was going to do it by country.   I spoke to God that I would run to the front if he called USA first.  I figured in my human reasoning that we are in England, he is from Germany, that request was a pretty safe bet.   Of course he called USA first, I jumped over people to get to the front to respond.   At the front of the auditorium, Reinhardt simply walked by praying for people, not taking the time to lay hands on them or anything.  I found myself on the floor as he passed by.   God spoke to me then of things that I was going to do in my life for him.  He has fulfilled most of those things in my life.

So, does God speak?  What about today?   I sensed him calling to me again this past week when I was hearing about ministry in Cuba.   It is not all happy and feel good moments because there has been loss, heart break and heart ache along the way or darkness as the author labeled it.   I have felt lost and abandoned in moments but I have also felt incredible jubilation.

 

 

 

One last speaking moment, twelve years ago, I was in Limerick Ireland walking down a city street when I felt God calling me to do a work in that town.  For the first five years after the moment that God had spoken to me, I pursued doing ministry with the local church in Limerick, but was politely rejected each time.  But on the sixth  years attempt, my team was received and our partnership has started a revolutionary change in the town.  I have been back seven times and now on the street where God spoke to me, there is going to be a church housed in what at that time was a toy store. It is right across from the police station and on the main intersection in town.  There are so many stories I could tell of just this one miracle.  Being persistent with what God is calling you to do is the lesson that I learned.

Yes, I do still believe that God speaks.  God does talk back and for me, I decided years ago to be a Christian and to simply believe that I can take God at his word and “at his word.”  I have many more stories that I could tell but that would simply bore you but I know God is still speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] T.M. Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2012), 13.

[2] Ibid., 40.

[3] Ibid., 45.

[4] Ibid., 47.

[5] Ibid., 47.

[6] Ibid., 278.

About the Author

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Kevin Norwood

My name is Kevin Norwood and I have been in youth ministry for the past 28 years. On February 14th, 1994, 23 years ago, we moved to Owasso OK and wow what a ride. My wife, Ann, is an RN and specializes in Clinical Documentation working from home. Maci is a my 17 year old daughter and she loves and shows horses. Her horse's name is Charlie. She is a straight A student and is excelling in her work. She just got her drivers license!! London is my 6 year old son and he keeps me young. He absolutely loves life!! Off roading in Sedona Arizona is one of his latest adventure. I have started a coaching business for pastors at www.kevinnorwood.com and it is exciting the doors that God is opening.

10 responses to “Does God Still Speak?”

  1. Claire Appiah says:

    Kevin,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog and learning about your Christian journey from a tender young age. No wonder you are so well suited for youth ministry. You have experienced the power and love of God for the majority of your life. How did that experiential knowledge of God’s reality sustain you through the years, especially in the “dark seasons”? Did it have anything to do with consistently being in conversation with Him?

    • Kevin Norwood says:

      Claire,
      To answer your question, yes. Even when I doubted myself I could reference back to the moments when I knew that I knew that in my most private times that God spoke to me. He speaks through his word and he speaks to me through others who preach the word. In the darkest moments God even sent someone to talk with me in my office. God had a person call me on the phone the morning after I had made the biggest ministry decision of my career and tell me that God woke them up to call me and to support what I had decided. No one knew what I had done or decided.
      To many steps of God leading, guiding and just being there to go any other way for me.

      Trust is the building block for a great relationship with God. Trust and obedience is the factors that have continued to organise my life.

      Kevin

  2. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Kevin:

    Great post. Hearing your story restores some of the negativism that I felt reading Luhrmann. Why do you think people, like Luhrmann, know/see/experience so much and then seem to wander off the path? She, sharp mind and various exposures, got so close and yet so far.

    What percentage of students do you see following the path that Luhrmann took?

    Phil

    • Kevin Norwood says:

      Phil,

      Here is what I see. Students have to experience God in a way that will sustain them into their first year of college and living away from home. When they get to that setting if they have a foundation of faith underneath them then they will succeed. They will plug into a place at that new school and continue on in their journey of faith. If they are bent toward the secular it will pull them in quickly.

      So the more experiences they have with faith having power and the supernatural included the more secure they are in their belief system.

      Just like the disciples of Jesus moved from miracle to miracle and teaching to teaching, they still checked out on Jesus. But they came back together to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and they were forever changed going forward.

      So my job is to introduce them to as many God experiences as I can and to speak the truth about these things to them and then pray!

      Kevin

  3. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Kevin for a very inspiration blog, because God talk, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV).

    However in the 21st Century, we need to start Tuning Out the Static
    Hearing from God is primarily a heart issue. You will hear from God when you decide to hold his will as your most important priority. More than being disciplined or practicing religious habits, a disciple willing to let go of his own desires that are counter to God’s expressed purpose shows single minded pure hearted devotion. This person will hear God’s voice, not because he’s good enough, but because God promises to speak to the pure of heart.
    A great reading blog! Blessings Rose Maria

  4. Jason KENNEDY says:

    Kevin,
    Good blog. Loved the personal thoughts.

    Jason

  5. Great blog. Loved the personal thoughts.

    Oh wait, Jason already said that. I agree!

    After reading the book do you think a youth leader could create a curriculum for learning how to hear Jesus?

  6. Pablo Morales says:

    Kevin, thank you for sharing about your experiences. It is encouraging to see how God leads us through His Spirit as we submit our lives to him. Like you, I also committed my life to serve Him at a young age. I was attending a summer camp at age 9 when I told the Lord that I wanted to serve Him in ministry, even though I did not know exactly in what kind of ministry. I was 18 when my family felt God’s leading to leave our home country in order to start a church plant ministry in Mexico City. Throughout the years, I’ve learned that His peace is the aftertaste of pursuing His direction. I’m so glad that you persisted throughout the six years of ministry in Ireland. The Lord has blessed your obedience, and I can’t wait to see what He will do with this new church. I was reminded of the book Visioneering as I read your blog. May the Lord continue to guide you and use you for His eternal purposes!
    Pablo

  7. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Kevin,
    I’m always fascinated by the stories you share. You spoke about the persistence to the call of God. There a few things God’s been speaking to me about and I’m yet to move with such persistence. However, in recent weeks I’ve been compelled to move forward with some of those things. This book has definitely challenged me in the most subtle way. No longer can I say God speaks to me if I don’t intend to respond to Him.

    Garfield

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