The Listening Company

When our family was very little, we noticed that one of our boys had a strong prophetic gifting. We were very amazed at how he would speak out and have endless words of knowledge in general life, without really trying or knowing a thing about a circumstance. I recall the time he came into the bathroom, as I was cleaning the bath, and announced for me to ring my friend Michele. I got up and did so, and found out she was in great pain, needing some comfort on a difficult day!

Another time, we were in church, and our son rose up in the middle of a meeting and prophesied. He was four years old at the time. The church had had so many words about prayer and seeking God and to be honest they ignored them all. One of the pastors was giving a message to the leaders which we had been invited to. The pastor was saying how sometimes God just speaks in a soft voice and you can hardly hear it. Suddenly out of nowhere, our little boy stood up, after having been lying on the floor listening to this and yelled out “and sometimes He shouts!”Needless to say, that was the end of that.

Indeed, sometimes God shouts at His Bride.

It’s a bit like that in marriage, right? You can have an argument but until you really listen you won’t hear. Someone can be shouting at you, but you can’t hear it because your heart is not listening.

In community, we can develop a listening culture around the prophetic. When God speaks through one prophet, it is super important we take notice. Sometimes prophetic words can clash and so we need to defer to one another in a spirit of humility. Or perhaps everyone has a part of the word, but it’s a case of discerning the overall anatomy of the word. An immature prophet will think this is a paradox that cannot be understood, but God is able to give grace to hear all that He is saying through different sources, whilst still holding it in check with wisdom and intelligence.

The word communicate, is the Greek word koinonikos, which comes from the word koinonia, the word for fellowship. This reveals to us the similarity between coming together and listening! Community is a listening place, where we tune our hearts and lives to the voice of God. The greatest gift we give ourselves is the time to stop and tune in – to listen and to observe. It’s in these times we will hear both the whispers of God or perhaps we might hear His shouts too! One thing is for sure, we won’t miss God if we are keen to learn. It takes effort for true prophetic community to develop.

 In what areas of your heart life is God speaking today? In what ways has your community developed a prophetic culture? If you are a leader, how can you help develop a community of tuned in listening people?

The Enemy of Connection – a Closed Heart

Our hearts can close off to others without us even realizing. Some folks are oblivious to this skill of knowing when they are in danger of closing off, as its been the way they have “survived” life. Others are so in their heads, they are just stuck there, not realizing their own hearts betray them. I love how Paul spoke to the Corinthians:

  “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange, I speak as to my children, open wide your hearts also.” 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV

The greatest strategy to destroy community, lies within our own hearts! It is the capacity to “shut your heart” to others. When my heart is closed it is cold and withdrawn. When my heart is open my heart is warm and affectionate, drawing towards others and not pulling away. In studying this feature in community life, I have noticed that our gatherings are affected by this extraordinary and yet simple revelation.

Hearts open, means we are more likely to have an open spiritual experience together of Heaven. “Closed hearts” is a difficult spiritual situation; decreasing the presence of God.

We are all learning to recognize these unique relationship enemies and go after them. Here’s a hit list of enemies to watch out for:

*a fear of being vulnerable or known

*perfection mindsets

*unforgiveness and in particular holding onto offences

*pride in not wanting to share your life or heart

*anxiety issues and isolation issues

*fear of rejection or shameful feelings

*avoidance of the heart altogether, resulting in a shut heart

*accusation from the Spiritual realm (although sometimes we can’t blame the devil for this as some people love accusing others)

*not feeling safe to stay open although this can be an excuse for some

Declare war today on your enemies of connection.

As you do, you will begin to see your relationships within community grow and flourish. Write up a prayer to read when you feel your heart pulling away and shutting down. Have a personal strategy to re-join the community connection daily in some way. Its so worth it!

God wants to teach us this epic skill of being open hearted ones, so we are aware of our own heart condition, whether we are open or shut or somewhere in between!


Come Together – the Power of Doing Church!

I once heard Bob Mumford give the most hilarious message back in the early 1980s. The gist of it was to do with doing life together. He shared how he was so over problems in his relationships in his church. We all know those feelings of being burnt out, and needing some emotional space from others! Bob said he felt like buying a house with a ten foot high wall and putting an electric fence at the top. He was kidding of course!

It’s so much easier to withdraw than to build community. There’s nothing wrong with “time out”, but ultimately we have to come back together and do as the Bible tells us to do. I love this verse:

“Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them towards acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to neglect meeting together as believers, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage each other as we anticipate that day dawning.” Hebrews 10:24,25 Passion Translation.

I’m trying to make the switch to only organic produce in our house. It means I have to go to the farmer’s market every week! I also probably will run into all the folks who live in my little town. And chances are, I will grab a coffee with friends. If you say, “that’s a lot of hard work”, whenever you go for a change, then you will most likely not do it. If, however, you are clear on your set goals, you will do all that is in your heart to do, regardless of the push. It will be on your non-negotiables list!

Being a part of a local congregation or community should be the highest thing on our non -negotiable list. Being a part of community and declaring war on our independence is something that is so healthy, it is like a part of our “health regime”.

In our house, as we were raising our family, with four teenagers, the rule was, you had to come to church unless you were dying of the flu or pouring blood from some kind of mortal wound. It helps to establish this boundary as singles before you get to raising a whole tribe of kids. Families need this as an absolute boundary. We go to church, we worship and we do it every week! Of course there is grace for the week off but if you don’t instill the value of “being together” how will the next generation know what that even is?

This word together in Hebrews 10, is the word synerchomai. It means to assemble and to gather together. It also means to be mixed in together as a giant family does, with all its mess and loveliness! My family growing up was messy. My family with Phil and our 4 kids was also very messy. In fact I don’t know a family that is not messy! Its just the way family is.

Having said all that, there is a beauty as we gather. From this Greek word, synerchomai, we also get the word, synergy. Church or Spiritual community is meant to be a synergetic blending of diverse ones who bond together as one. We are not perfect, but we are in a continual state of being made whole. We become enlivened as we do this, and have a glory that is unique to the overall because we have shared! Why? Because we were created for community. The deepest expression of our ‘coming together’ is where we can facilitate the opening up of our hearts. This deep heart connection will build new habits and new life-styles. It’s one thing to come together and another to do so with your heart wide open. In the now famous words of the Beatles, “come together right now, over me!”

Are you totally committed to the community of God on earth? What needs to happen for you to do deeper covenant with Gods people? In what areas do you need to get healed of past stuff so you can press into a deeper expression of community? What needs to happen on the inside for you to choose community?

Searching For Community

The world is made up of tribes and people groups. All my life I’ve been fascinated by this and like many children, as a little girl, I spent hours pouring over encyclopedias and National Geographic magazines trying peer into the ‘worlds’ that others call home. Some of my earliest memories from Kindergarten were staring into children’s faces in magazines, which was like peering through a window into all the different tribes that existed in the earth. I love to celebrate other cultures; I adore ethnic food and culture. My father was posted overseas in the early 70s, so I was very blessed to do a lot of travel from a young age. As an adult, I’ve had the privilege of visiting many nations and sometimes I even get the extreme privilege of ministering to folks in other nations.

It doesn’t take a lot of looking to see, that whoever we are, belonging, and a having a sense of family is paramount to our happiness. In fact, scientists have now proven that human connection is the core need for basic human development and maturity. We all knew it, but our emotional health can now be related back to family of origin issues. This developmental process is heightened or weakened according to our connections to a tribe or to a family. That’s why childhood bonding is a vital step for developing a healthy young child. No matter who you are on the planet, family is the longing of our souls!

In the Kingdom, that family is now also the community of God, where no matter what happened to you, you can be healed by love and acceptance.

Villages to Cities- the Death of Collectivism

In looking forward, we need to look back and understand that the change from an agrarian culture to an industrialized one was of massive historical significance. With that change came movement. As we moved from village life, to city life, societies changed in their emphasis, away from family culture. This has brought huge changes over the earth and change to our societies. With these changes came all kinds of cultural adaptations, that have been taking their toll in the last fifty years or so.

We are now asking the questions we should have been asking previously. Where are our communities?

We are still catching up to the fact, that the world is changing so fast, that we can no longer keep up with the cultural, scientific, computerized, educated world, in which we find ourselves. We’ve seen hurtling change in the last twenty years! It’s important to ask the questions: “What are we holding on to? What have we left behind?”

“The soul of India lives in its villages,” declared Gandhi, at the beginning of the 20th century. In ancient times families gathered in groups called villages. Tribes were small villages that consisted of leaders, elders, wise men or spiritual fathers and each village or tribe had its own doctor or physician. The tribe was a small eco-village able to sustain itself and able to provide and trade with other tribes for resources that were unavailable to them. Tribes were self-governing and self-sustaining. They trained and prepared young warriors for battle, and built systems for agricultural fruitfulness and the protecting of family and tribe values. The cultural values of a tribe or village were what held a group of families together, and within that cultural context you ‘designed’ your life to think within that paradigm.

Collectivism puts the goals of the entire group ahead of the desires of each individual that takes part in the collective. In collectivism we see that the family fights for the individual dreams of each person.

Often we had family businesses and family goals that were realized as one. Slowly this has died within our Western societies. With the decrease of collectivism came the rise of individualism. To think individualistically is to say, “I don’t need you”. This is the antithesis of the concept of church, which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12. In individualism, the person pursues his or her own goals without regard for the dreams of others.

Now that we live in a digital world, individualism is rife. The promotion of one’s own dreams above another is considered very normal. Situating oneself to advance, or be successful above another is not always wrong but if exalted as the only way we do life, it is idolatry and it is destructive. When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, it was considered selfish. Granted, I grew up in sheltered, Catholic communities that in the 70s were hugely influenced by the likes of St Francis! The jarring cultures of MTV and its predecessors has sent a harsh cry to this generation that the new ‘normal’ is self.

Western culture has really glorified individualism and placed it high on the altar of cultural preference! Billboards shout at us that we should consider ourselves above all others and that to neglect to do so would indeed be foolish. Yep, the world is self-obsessed and narcissistic. However, things are gonna change!

The cry for community and grassroots movements since the 60s is finally starting to become a “mainstream” voice, that is heralding a new wave, of the voice for community and collectivism.

We are seeing a shift away from self-absorption into an understanding of sharing and the power of love. With the increase of technology and awareness of the world, this generation has become hungry to ‘get out there’ and travel the world more than ever before. The world seems smaller now that the Internet has cosmically broken down the sense of divide. This cultural ‘awakening’ and awareness of the world can also be seen in that there has been cultural change in the church.

We can never go back to the agrarian world of the first few centuries and it’s likely that over the coming decades; the greatest pressures of all are going to come on the Church as we join ‘the conversation.’ We will be tackling the big issues like: the environment, human trafficking, poverty, terrorism, weapons of destruction, multi-corporations, ethics surrounding science and global economic instability.

The Return of Community

My belief is that we are on the brink of major change in the church. This change largely has to do with two features; the return of community and the outpouring of the glory of God on the earth!.

Community is now a popular buzzword. We hear about online communities and food communities. We have health communities, exercise communities, art communities, book-lover communities and indeed a community for pretty much everything!

The other major feature is that the glory of God is starting to pour forth all over the world and we are seeing the awakening of a new revival.

Recognizing that Christ is in us, we can call each other into the mystical fullness of our New Creation being. The church is His community, and it is beautiful. We are rediscovering the power of a shared life, a life absorbed in God, and this life was created for intimacy with God and with one another.

While many in the world are searching for their tribe; God’s answer to the cry of their hearts is to show them a different kind of community. This community is one that is clothed from on high; a community that holds onto love in words and in practice. It is a “micro-village” of heaven, as it is where we find ourselves immersed in His grace and sharing in the oneness of Heaven.

Its time to re-build His community.