Monday, July 26, 2010

Just Listen

"Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe."--Dietrich Bonhoeffer  

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how to live surrendered, completely dependent on the Holy Spirit.  Put simply, there are two very distinct schools of thought on surrender: Static and Radical.  (I'm intentionally using polarizing terms language to highlight their differences.)  I'd like to take some time to discuss them today:

Static--"I'm surrendering to Jesus in my heart, and attendance record shows it."  These are your standard church-goers.  The classic cases are the people who have no relationships outside of their church friends.  They generally sit in the same pew every Sunday and usually volunteer for ministries to other Christians.  They will make coffee for their Sunday School class, but will not volunteer at the Salvation Army food kitchen.  They are faithful attenders to Worship Services and to classes where they can learn about the Bible, but they do not go forward for altar calls. They do not usually join Life Groups unless the Life Group is made up exclusively of people from their Sunday School class.  They can be dull, because the most exciting stories they have involve realizing pork and beans is 5 cents cheaper at Aldi than at Giant Eagle.  However, they can also be refreshing, because they are always there on Sunday, often with a smile and a very genuine "good to see you."  They are steady givers and really care about the church.  

Radical--"I'm surrendering to Jesus in my heart, and I burned down my house so that I would have to depend on God for a place to sleep."  They believe church is a purely man-centered religious institution and that they will somehow be assimilated into Borg-like drones if they attend regularly.  They are the first people to sign up for local outreach projects and the first to resign, because the event isn't "dependent enough."  They see planning ministry as a slap in the face to the Holy Spirit's leading.  If they are associated with any assembly of believers, it is a Life Group or house church.  They are really exciting to fellowship with, because they inspire you to step out in faith with amazing stories of angels flying them out of burning buildings that God told them to enter, because He wanted them to save a litter of puppies in room 2A that just happened to be named "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego".  However, they can also be exhausting, because they unintentionally make you feel like less of a Christian for attending a big church that only has 20 people getting saved every Sunday instead of a house church that is making "true disciples."  They are willing to do anything for the Kingdom of God.  They go out of their way to help people in need, and you can always depend on them to get behind you when the risk is great and God-dependence is high.  Pre-Christians see them and say, "That guy knows Jesus."  

I'm caught somewhere in the middle. I genuinely see surrender in both groups.  At times I have felt guilty, because I have a comfortable house and I know that my next paycheck will cover my bills.  Other times, I look at how busy I am with things at church and feel like I really need to spend more time with my pre-Christian friends.  However, I have many times offered up my home and belongings to God, and I'm genuinely willing to let them go at His request.  Also, when God brings my pre-Christian friends to mind, I make it a point to call or text and get together.  Every time this happens, God does something big.  

I'm starting to think that we have become way too concerned about what surrender needs to "look like."  I've heard this phrase a lot:  "What does a Christ-centered church look like?"  "What does a missional ministry look like?"  "What does a life of surrender look like?"  A lot of times (not always) I turn this into comparing myself with others.  I hear about my friend who gave away his belongings to obey God and I wonder if I should do the same.  The difference is that God didn't ask me to sell everything.  In fact, he could be asking me to do something else, but I am busy worrying about whether or not I should surrender in the exact same way my friend has.  

How strange that in a conversation about obedience to the Spirit, I start to think I have to do what everybody else is doing!  My job as a disciple of Christ is to listen to the Holy Spirit, not to copy my friends who are listening to Him.  

What is God asking you to do?  How are you depending on Him?

As you think about surrender, I can recommend The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.    


  1. Just today I had a conversation with an old friend that went from adoption to listening to the Holy Spirit to the type of church I go too (She is totally fits into your definition of a radical).

    First the conversation was dumbfounding because in college she was an athiest (raised by athiest parents) and now she is on fire for God. But it was also so interesting because I find myself between static and radical and loved listening to her reasons and stories about how she became a Christian and turned so extreme.

    Sarah lives in a homeless shelter in Seattle and works at a bank a few blocks away. And everything she does besides going to work involves helping the homeless people she lives with. Wickedly cool, totally cardinal and a Christian (which blows my mind and gives more examples to the God can do anything mantra!)

    Good post Dan!

  2. Good insights Dan! I agree, we have to be daily connecting to God to be listening and lead by the Spirit for where HE wants us to be. I believe there is a balance and maybe even a season for both. The hardest part is obeying when we do hear him, but also remembering that there is "now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" as he is so very patient with us!

    (Posted by Karin on Alan's account)