DMINLGP

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

Speak Lord Your Servant is Listening

Written by: on February 17, 2018

A couple of years ago, the Society of Vineyard Scholars hosted their conference in Raleigh at Raleigh Vineyard Church. Two of my dear friends were coming into town to present papers at this conference. As a part of this conference were worship services. One night I had come to the church to pick up one of my friends (who was staying with me) and I had joked earlier with her saying that “I know you say the service ends at 9pm but you know how you vineyards are…you will probably still be soaking in God’s presence until midnight”. We both began laughing because based on our experiences we knew that could very well be a possibility. At 9:30pm I drove up to the church. I could see that the parking lot was completely full and the foyer of the church was empty. As I drove over to the side of the building I could see the worship band on stage. After I parked, I walked into the building and stood in the back of the church. It was evident by the spiritual presence felt in the room and by the responses of the attendees that God was in the midst. They were not in any haste to end their time of worship due to time but as I had witnessed before they wanted to soak and wait to hear what he wanted to say to us.  Some time had passed with everyone just in a posture of worship, a leader at the conference came to the mic and said that the microphone is open for anyone to come and share what they hear God is saying. People began coming up to the mic to share. It was a very powerful moment in the service! I will conclude this story by saying that yes, we did not leave the church until Midnight! ?

This experience at this service was not new to me per se. Being that I grew up in a Pentecostal faith tradition that consistently taught that God speaks to us and that when He does we should respond. It was reinforced by accounts in scriptureof God talking and engaging with us. For some, it was audible and for others it was an internal still small voice but one thing that all believers can affirm is that He does speak to us.  American Psychological Anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann explored what it means within the American Christian context to hear God. In her book When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God she discusses her time spent in a Vineyard church community in Chicago. Over the course of a couple years she was a part of the church and spent time observing and engaging with members of the congregation. She discusses her experiences from understanding God’s presence to Spiritual Warfare.  In reflecting on the way, the worshippers were connecting with God Luhrmann writes “This is a God people talk about as being somewhere as well as everywhere; being present at a particular time as well as always. God is of course understood as eternal, omnipresent, and everywhere. If you ask congregants where God is in church, they will look confused. But still they speak as if God has a particular presence and a specific voice. The church behaves as if God will be tangibly present after he has been invited to come.”[1] The same could have been said about my experience I had during that service or any Sunday service at my local church. Our worship services are structured in a way that does invite God’s presence.  The songs we sing glorify the way we God relates to us by describing His connection to us through all of our senses. Despite the skeptisim of the way in which some evangelicals choose to relate to God, even in her observations, Luhrmann grew to understand that to know God is to experience Him. You can read books, study church history, and even read every page of the Bible but to fully enrich your understanding of who God is one must be willing to experience His presence. Luhrmann in her last chapter observed that “[i]n this modern experiential evangelical faith, this way of understanding God insists on a reality so vivid that it demands a willing suspension of disbelief while generating direct personal experiences that make that God real and integral to one’s experiences of self.”[2] 

 

[1] T.M Luhrmann, When God talks back: understanding the American evangelical relationship with God (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 6.

[2] Ibid., 301.

About the Author

Christal Jenkins Tanks

6 responses to “Speak Lord Your Servant is Listening”

  1. Mary says:

    “For some, it was audible and for others it was an internal still small voice but one thing that all believers can affirm is that He does speak to us. ”
    Thank you, Christal. Your experience is just another confirmation of God’s love for us and His compassion as He speaks to us. I really appreciate that you mention that His voice comes in different ways. I’ve never heard and audible voice. I wonder how many people have?

  2. Jim Sabella says:

    Enjoyed your post, Christal. I think you make a very important point when you say that what people in that special service felt they heard from God, “was reinforced by accounts in scripture…” I do believe that that is part of the litmus test for anytime anyone says they hear from God. Thanks for your post and sharing your experience, Christal.

  3. Stu Cocanougher says:

    Of all of the books that The Sevens have read together, this one may have produced the the widest range of discussion.

    Having read each one of our blog posts, some of us report that hearing the voice of God is NOT a part of their faith experience. Others of us report that it is a DAILY occurrence (and I thought it would be Love is an Orientation that would split us).

    Yet, It is reality that one of the bi-products of the denominational diversity in our cohort (Baptist, Presbyterian, A.O.G., etc.) is that we are each a part of a faith community which talks about experiencing God differently.

    For example, if you read your post, Katy’s post, and Mary’s comments on my post back-to-back… you get a WIDE range of experiences with “charismatic” issues / “hearing from God.”

    Yet, we know that Christ prayed that His church “be one.” Yet, it is our human tendency to baptize OUR experiences and demonize OTHERS experiences. Yet, Christ prayed that we would all “be one” (John 17:20-23).

    I am grateful that God placed us all together. I pray that these relationships continue for years to come.

    • mm Katy Drage Lines says:

      Stu, you have succinctly stated the big picture of our posts this week, as well as the big umbrella of the Body of Christ, the one Church. Well done.

      And like it or not, you’re probably stuck with us Sevens for a long time. We’ve enriched each other in multiple ways, reminding us of the one-ness that Jesus desires for His people.

      (Perhaps this week is just a foreshadowing of what’s upcoming at the end of the semester). 😉

  4. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    I love the variety of experience we have within the people of God!

    “This is a God people talk about as being somewhere as well as everywhere; being present at a particular time as well as always. God is of course understood as eternal, omnipresent, and everywhere. If you ask congregants where God is in church, they will look confused. But still they speak as if God has a particular presence and a specific voice.” I appreciate the quote of Luhrmann’s you cite here– one of the things I love about life with Jesus is the paradoxes we live with (fully God AND fully human, etc.) and the comfort level we have with ambiguity.

  5. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    This statement says it all: “…to know God is to experience Him.” What more can be said?

    Love your Vineyard story. It’s hard to leave God’s presence when the Holy Spirit shows up. What I’ve observed is Pentecostals are often driven by experiences versus time. I enjoy a combination of experiencing God’s presence with a time consciousness. Best of both worlds :).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *