I have noticed lately that many of the women joining our groups are longing for a place to belong, for relationships and encouragement, but many do not have spiritual things on their radar. All of them appreciate prayer, but many have not necessarily given much thought to the things of God or to who He is.
I have just finished reading God Space by Doug Pollock (copyright 2009, Group Loveland, Colorado). In it, he suggests creative ways to “listen” our way into spiritual conversations. I was inspired to put his thoughts into action.
Would you take the following challenge with me and put some of his ideas (described below) into practice in your various groups or with those you meet with at work or who are in your sphere of influence? I would challenge you to try “wondering” and “listening” your way through a group time, and then debrief with your team. Discuss how each of you felt, how the ladies responded, and what new insight came out of it. Then let me know how it went for you and for those who are attending your groups.
Often in our genuine effort to share Christ with others we fall into one of these potholes:
1. We hijack the conversation to drop our spiritual nugget.
2. We speed through the slightest opening to drop all the knowledge we know.
3. We run red lights or fail to see when the other person has shut down.
Spirit-led listening is a relaxed, open-handed time where you listen in order to discover other people’s stories, interests, and inner longings. The time is given to the other person, and the only prompts we offer are questions that show we are tracking and interested in knowing more. We do not bring up spiritual things in this time frame unless the person initiates interest on their own, or unless the Holy Spirit specifically prompts. This is a time to create a “God space” that later will allow for deeper conversations and sharing. When you are offered a time to speak, be brief so the other person knows it is them you are interested in. Come to the conversation with what the author calls “wondering questions”. These are questions that naturally help probe deeper into the story someone is sharing with you.
1. “That’s an interesting perspective. I am wondering how you came to that conclusion?”
2. “That must have been hard. I am wondering how you got through it? What or who helped you?”
3. “It sounds like this person has caused you some deep pain. I am wondering how you deal with relating to them now?”
4. “I am wondering if you have any cheerleaders or encouragers in your life? Who was there for you growing up?”
5. “This has taken up a large portion of your life. I am wondering how you view your future? What are your hopes and dreams?”
6. “I am wondering what role religion has played in your life?”
7. “What would it take for you to believe God exists?”
As you “wonder” your way through a conversation, the person realizes they matter to you and that you honestly care about where they are at. This can happen a half hour into the conversation, or it may take meeting together several times before trust is established. God is not in a hurry. He has been patient with us, and we need to offer the same grace to those with whom we are meeting. As the trust builds, the deeper soul longings will surface. This is where your questions can begin to go deeper and become more spiritual. It is here that you will find the Holy Spirit nudging you to share snippits of your own story. Just remember to make it brief and use language that is easily understood.
1. “I was wondering if, in your quiet moments, you have ever thought there must be more to life than this?”
2. “Do you think there is a God? What do you think He might be like?”
3. “I was wondering what is it about God that unsettles you?”
4. “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”
Many of our encounters will be with women who are overwhelmed with life, situations, or relationships. Listening to them, wondering with them, and then sharing our own journeys will offer them the safe place to be themselves, feel accepted, and then be open to what you have to share spiritually. Creating “God space” in this way is a deeper way of listening and relying on the Holy Spirit, as you have nothing in your hands as far as resources – just the questions the Holy Spirit brings to mind as you engage in conversation.
My group recently took up the challenge of creating “God space” through wondering and listening. Halfway through our dialogue, the Holy Spirit broke in and did a deep healing work in one of the ladies to whom we were ministering. We had been listening to the ladies describe their weeks and how they were handling life in general. As they shared, we asked deeper questions about how this was affecting them and their relationships.
About halfway into our time together, the question was asked, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be”? We went around the circle, each sharing what our question would be and why. One of the volunteers shared a deep and painful question she had carried with her for years, and as she shared, one of the other women began to sob uncontrollably. This volunteer was describing the other woman’s heartache with words she had never been able to verbalize. It was like her own story was being told through the heartache of another so clearly that “God space” was created, and we were able to share deeps spiritual truths due to the intimacy that was born.
We were able to pray with her through the pain, share the truth about forgiveness, and encourage her on her journey in seeking God and all He has for her. She was enfolded and loved in that moment by us and, more importantly, by God. She understood that God had orchestrated that moment just for her. As the other women looked on, it was obvious to them that God is a personal, intimate God who cares for the details of life. We came away that day blessed beyond words for this woman and her newfound freedom, as well as overwhelmed by the God we serve.