Corporate listening or waiting is not a new thing. It is the beginning of the church before Pentecost. The disciples were told to “wait” until they were endued with Power from above. They did not gather with an agenda or to strategize, but to wait. Jesus had left, taken up in a cloud in front of them, and they were told to not leave Jerusalem until something happened. WAIT… They waited for 10 days, can you imagine what day 9 was like? I am sure that they were tired, drained, empty, and yet they waited… WHY? Because they knew the Lord and He said, “Wait”. I know Holy Spirit has come, but so have so many agendas and strategies of our own thinking. There is nothing wrong with stratigizing — to a point. Our problem is that we decide what we want to see and do and then ask God to tell us how to do it… wrong answer. Strategy must come after extensive hearing, not right after the first thing we hear. Father has a lot more to share…
A few years ago, the Lord spoke to me in a vision of some detail to “bring them together for I have a word that I want to speak. I will not speak it to individuals as it could destroy them. I will only speak this word corporately”. After receiving the same vision and words three times over a year period I began to try to “bring them together”. The problem was that I did not know who “them” was. So it did not happen. Later in a hotel in Jakarta I was visited by some angels who told me, “We are waiting for you, you are in sin. We are waiting for the Church, the church is in sin.” Part of my sin was not gathering “them” together to hear a word from the Lord corporately.
With some help we gathered about 20 world traveling leaders together for a time of waiting. I prefaced the invitation with leave your name, your ministry title and your agendas at home. God wants to speak and we are coming to wait and listen. A smaller group out of this initial meeting have met 4 times together in different places around the world over the last 2 years. It has been mind-blowing and incredible. We have found that the unity we as the body of Christ have always sought after is found not in our agenda or strategies but in selflessness and humility. Those of us who are a part of these listening/waiting times have a new fear of the Lord and a hunger to be together and with the Lord. We gather without a need other than to meet with the Lord, not knowing what or if anything will happen. All of us and the ministry we are doing has changed in some way. We meet usually for 3 days at a time and the Lord usually strips us of something we cherish before we hear from Him. Some of what we hear makes no sense yet we see changes. Each time we meet God shows us something together that we could not gain or handle individually. These things bind us together stronger as we have a need for each other to hear all that Father wants to speak.
Most of the Church as a whole wants something new or real in their search for Christ. They are tired of agendas, control, and strategies that do not equip or edify the body to do the work of the ministry. In our quest we have learned a few things and missed a few. Our hunger for more drives us to gather again and again. The following is a kind of outline of our findings. Father wants us all to come to the place of individual intimacy, but that is not the end. His goal is corporate intimacy with Him to hear and obey. He has the plan and our plans always will fall short as we begin to tell Him what to do to complete our plan.
Corparate Waiting / Listening
Listening to or waiting on the Lord for prolonged periods without a specific focus is not a developed skill for most people or groups because we walk in our minds, our purposes and our agendas normally. The tendency is to hear a little about what we want to do and then begin to strategize and plan.
Community listening is not listening for personal direction; we are coming together in community for the sole purpose of honoring Father and to sit with Him as His children. Maybe He will want to tell us a story, show us the past, or lead us into discovery of ourselves and what Love looks like walked out in community. Or maybe He will give us a revelation about each other or our city/area. Perhaps He will do all of that or none of it. Only Father knows what He will do as we surrender all to listen together.
Lay down your reason for gathering and truly surrender self. It is not about what God will do for your plans or desires. It is also not simply to get in His presence and have a good time. We can do that at home. The reason we want to listen is because He is Father, Creator, Alpha/Omega. It is not to get a purpose for the future or a “word”, but it will probably bring one as we surrender our need for one. Corporate listening times are, “Hi dad, what’s on your mind? What do you want to talk about or do for a few days?” — Listening may take you in a completely different direction than why you thought you came to listen!
Don’t bring your “name, network, ministry or position” to the meeting. Do not let people intro themselves with what they have done or are doing, or with their doctorates, denominations or doctrines. These things mean nothing to God and they should not to us if we come to listen. SUGGESTION for introductions — have everyone spend 5 minutes and no more with another person that they don’t know well and then introduce each other to the group in less than one minute a piece. That gets everyone down to the essentials. No one shares his or her business card or calling.
Another alternative is to have the Holy Spirit intro each person. (This takes considerable more time and more explanation of the process yet can be extremely good.) Introductions by the Spirit take trust and if you decide to do this, do not do it right away, give people a chance to watch each other and relax. To do Spirit led introductions simply ask God to show you how He would introduce each other to the group and as you look at someone and see or hear something from the Lord share it. Others will add to what you see or think. Do not prophecy over each other but intro each other. You are not telling the group what you see in each other’s future but simply what you see by the Spirit about each other. It is amazing what will come out.
Something to note is the need for individual and corporate times of listening to be a part of the day(s) spent together. Each is important, follow the Spirit. Variety keeps interest and individuality or diversity in unity. Most times music is a distraction as words in the songs or the melodies we know tend to focus our listening through the words. (This is our experience. I suppose if someone “has to have” music they could bring their own mp3 or iPod with head phones.)
Focus — focus — focus. Whomever the facilitators (plural) are need to be willing to stop agendas that take you away from listening and they need to be SERVANTS not lords. When strategy starts to happen — kill it during the meeting, let strategists meet afterward to form plans if they must. In the very first listening time we had that was a success Father specifically told me that when we begin to strategize we would lose. (We have seen this happen, it killed the unity that we had). This “need” to make strategies as a result of something the Lord speaks will come up again and again as we all tend to do it at some point… Go back to listening. Direction and purpose are different than strategy. God will direct the time and purpose of the gathering. (Strategies can be done afterthe listening times are over by a few apostolic types who love that kind of thing and can gather somewhere else.)
God knows everyone’s heart and knows what He would tell the group. His leading will usually come from the sum of individual statements about what God says when they listen. (Most will feel that what they get is for themselves and not the group — wrong. It may be for them but it usually ends up being for the group also.)
In the first session of listening (usually a quiet personal time of 30 to 45 minutes that allows each person to focus and hear individually); have people write down or hold onto what God speaks to them or what they think God is saying. NO prophesying or “Words from the Lord” for any of the people in the group or for the group during listening times. Let this happen at breaks or evening times of relaxation. At the end of set times or corporate or individual listening times give each person a chance to speak what they think Father wants to do… or is saying.
The group will pick up where all the individual words received leads to next or what the corporate word means AFTER everyone has a chance to give input. Encourage those who do not want to share but don’t press, instead come back to them after you let a few others share — until they share. This will show that you really want to know what they have felt or heard. Opposites are not one wrong and another right but instead are both seen as right. The group must see how they all fit together not how some fit! Discussion is good to a point but must be watched closely as most long discussions will lead us to a rabbit trail (a distraction from listening and responding). This will happen and it is not if but how long we follow the rabbit before coming back to our purpose of listening that matters, without condemning anyone for starting it. Some people like procedures and will want to set down rules for everything — if possible do not do it. Help people become at peace with freedom.
When a discussion starts to lead to long term strategizing rather than responding and obeying His directions, stop and let people know that strategic meetings can come after this time but for now it is listening and finding out what Father is saying or doing time… Strategic planning will come out of these times spent together but can be follow-up times. Strategizing will leave out part of those present and lead to division of the group eventually if not kept under control.
Whether it is direction or training or wherever Father leads, do not draw conclusions before the last meeting. He will test to see if you are going to take control and guide the direction or follow Him. (If you see a lot of people looking around or wondering around not connected to what is happening, the group probably lost focus or are on a rabbit trail.)
The first time you meet to listen will probably only be a beginning. It will lay a foundation for hearing as a group and start to form a unity in the midst of diversity. God will share something that He would not have shared with individuals; as it would be too much for one person or one like-minded group to do. No one will get the whole picture. God is community. We have found that usually it is those who talk the least that actually hear the best. What they say will focus the group in some way. The ones who normally lead and give guidance to your groups will be your worst problem. They are used to power and directing others. They will tend to interrupt those they do not respect or consider valuable and those they think are saying things that distract from what they want to do.
Facilitators must stop interruptions and make sure that the first person or the last person who was talking gets to finish and be heard. If anyone is to end what a person is saying it must be the facilitators. If there is one or two who do not participate then facilitators must encourage them to speak — DO NOT let them sit as wall flowers, they have something valuable to add… All need to give input from listening even if they feel that have nothing. (It is amazing to hear what those who feel have nothing say and see the effect on the group.)
Father does have a purpose to each set of meetings or gathering but usually some people get sidetracked by the first thing they hear and stay there sidetracked and focused on some aspect of what they have heard for the whole time. Listening takes trust, and trusting others is the weakest point for most of us. Moving people to listen a second time on what they have heard can take some time… be patient!
Some of the participants of the “first gathering weekend or days” will fall away after the first set of meetings, other’s will want more and others who hear of the first meetings will want to join for your next listening time — Check with the original group before you invite anyone as this is about Us not me. When the second set of meetings or listening/prayer time happens, realize that Father has put this group together and He will take those who come the second time deeper and further because they are hungry for Him… not power. A closer community of listeners will develop. Do not take credit for any changes you see in your community that you believe happens as a result of your time spent together with Father.
(Listening in community reduces your individual ability to take advantage of what He says and your ability to walk alone.)
Listening kills pride when done in community. It will also instill a fear of the Lord (somehow this will happen)!
In the end you will realize that although you laid down your agendas and visions of what you needed to hear, you will have heard something that will guide you on into the future or will have changed what you will pray about tomorrow… This revelation may not come during the meeting but will follow it.
Listening in community will change your walk or solidify it in some way that you don’t understand but needed. Why? Because you laid down your needs, lost your life. At the end you will find it because you gave up searching for it to look for Him!