The Still Small Voice

The Art of Reflection - In step with the Spirit

 Chapter Five, Part Nine




In Step with the Spirit

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

Thinking Laterally

When we are watching the news, Ros and I often wonder what isn’t being said – either about the situation itself, or other items that are not being featured.

If we are open to the Lord’s leading – and willing to move beyond the media focus – He will cause us to explore and care for many themes and places that matter profoundly to Him. At other times we may realise the particular slant and editorial angle that lies behind what we are reading or watching. Rather than simply responding in line with what is being served up for us, therefore, the Lord may want to show us a entirely different way to pray about that particular situation.

When I was on the point of passing the draft manuscript of this book to a few friends to read through, I knew that it would be easy enough for them to spot the odd spelling mistakes, and perhaps to take issue with particular points. More to the point was whether they would notice things that genuinely merit consideration that I had not included. May the Lord help us to think outside the box!

When I was a young Christian worker in Oxford, I used to visit a remarkable old lady. Although she was completely blind, she had the courage to walk along busy streets on her own, right into the city centre. ‘I put my hand in the hand of the Lord,’ she explained, ‘and off we go together!’ How about that for an example of keeping in step with the Spirit?

Some thirty years ago, I prayed for someone in great need. Just after I had read aloud some comforting verses from Hosea, she received a powerful infilling of the Holy Spirit. With all the enthusiasm of the convert, I dragged a friend round the following evening, told him how wonderful it was to be filled with the Spirit, and duly read aloud those same verses.

Precisely nothing happened of course. I had made the classic mistake of trying to make a doctrine out of an experience, and found myself completely out of step with the Spirit. How wary we must be of formulas if we are to grow in being led by the Lord! Just as David waited on the Lord to receive a fresh strategy for each new battle, so we must likewise seek the Lord’s in every situation that we face.

The strategies that worked well in the past may well no longer be the best ones to reach today’s largely unchurched post-modernist generation, for whom relationships and experience are more important than a top heavy hierarchical approach.

Many secular professions are similarly encouraging an enquiry-based approach to learning rather than settling for traditional didactic methods. This is a vital area to explore, not least because so many believers are permanently hungry as a result of hearing too many words but seeing too little power Sunday by Sunday.

Large swathes of the Church are effectively content to leave excellent men and women with potentially powerful ministries cooped up in their seats, with their spiritual wings clipped. With more focused support and mentoring these same people could go out and accomplish so much more.[14]

One of the ways the Lord can use our ability to hear His voice is to help us contribute to the new, more participatory forms of church that He is developing. I find myself these day increasingly comfortable using the word ‘church’ as a verb rather than just as a noun. Whilst the Protestant reformation restored vital doctrines, it did little to permanently alter the way church services and structures operated. Luther may have promoted the priesthood of all believers, but in practice neither he nor Calvin had the vision to implement the ministry of all believers, or any concept of the importance of equipping the saints for works of service.[15]

The goals of this ‘mega shift’ that is occurring are broadly in line with those of previous generations, but the means of expressing and achieving them will be radically different. Young ones are sure to be at the fore, but God will use older ones, like Joshua, to encourage and mentor them.[16] There are few more important things to pray about than passing on the baton to a generation who will go further and deeper than we have done.

For Reflection and Prayer

Lord, help us as fellowships and as individuals
to be more profoundly in tune with Your plans and purposes –
even when You appear to be stepping right off the map!


14 David Oliver and James Thwaites outline this problem on page 70 of their book Church that Works (Authentic Lifestyle). Wolfgang Simson explores this new way of learning – see especially the chapter, ‘Fathering the next generation’ in ‘Houses that change the world – the return of the house churches.’ (Authentic Media) pp. 257-258. James Rutz also has extremely important things to share about making Church more participatory in his ground-breaking publication, Megashift (Empowerment Press, Colorado Springs).
15 Eph. 4:12
16 See my article, ‘The Joshua Generation,’