Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Over time I am writing a few posts on the concept and Process of Dialogue Prayers. In a previous post I covered W for Welcoming one another and the Lord. Now let us take a look at Attending one another and the Lord.

A-Attend to one another and Attend to the Lord: Paying attention to what is happening to each other is crucial in the Dialogue Prayer process. We focus on what each member is experiencing as we welcome God into our gathering. It is here that the group is built into a community. If one member begins to confess a sin the entire focus of the rest of the group will be on her or him until that facet of ministry is completed. Attending means that we minister fully in the same direction until the Lord nudges us to move in a different direction. Have we not all experienced times when the anxiety of a leader or member moved the focus before God was finished?

By attending to God's work in the group we are beginning to operate in a manner described in I Corn. 12, 13 and 14 when the church functions as the integrated "Body of Christ." If the focus is on individual, isolated and personal prayers this unity will never develop.

In Dialogue Prayer Group the Holy Spirit is at work making all the various "parts" of the "body" moves together in unity. The gifts of the Spirit are not primarily intended to be individual characteristics that a person can carry around to use at her will. One does not transport the "gift of teaching" in his back pocket or in her purse to pull out at random.

Rather these gifts are to operate within the context of the gathered community. I am not always an "ear" in the body but I am an "ear" whenever the body is moving together in the unity of the Spirit and I am led by the Lord to be an "ear." Thus, I may minister at one time with the gift of healing and at another time in the role of confessor.

Maurie may manage the group process one week and facilitate worship through spontaneous singing the next. By attending to the Lord's voice and to the people's voices I can more appropriately judge the exact nature of my call to function at this particular time.

The current emphasis on spiritual gifts is a wholesome addition to the days when Christians failed to recognize gifts other than a clergyman. However, our westernized version has members filling out "gifts tests" that supposedly inform us what God has done once and for all for all time in the same way we can identify whether we are good in mathematics. Additionally, check lists are purported to work for us whether or not we have ever been in a group that operated as an integrated community as described in I Corinthians 12. In fact, many of the churches that use these gift checklists do not even believe that all gifts are possible or permitted. It is similar to selecting someone to be on the baseball team because he checked that, as a child, he really like hitting things with sticks. A gifts-check list might show that he had the gift of batting even though he had never even been to a ball game let alone played in one.

This is what happens when leadership gifts are removed from the life of a real community. What kind of test will reveal that my daughter is ready to baby sit? What kind of checklist tells me that my son was gifted in music presentations? There is no test for relating to others and to God. The only way any of us decides when a child is mature enough to carry out a relational ministry or function is when we have observed them in action and have had an opportunity to disciple them.

And how do they discover those gifts? By reading a book or by watching, trying and being supervised?Attending requires that we focus our attention on what God is doing in the group with particular reference to what He is doing with and to the individuals and the group as a whole. The group has a life in addition to the individuals within the group. Most of the commands in scripture are to the gathered community and not to the individuals who "attend" church. In fact, attending church is not even a biblical notion. Rather, we are the church and when we gather in his name we are His family whose job is to listen to His directions. As a family we must learn how to carry out His instructions.

Attending requires us to take risks and ideas that we think the Lord is raising up for whole group. For example, I was once impressed to suggest that a group go on a "prayer walk and servant evangelism outreach". The group rejected my suggestion because they thought we were too immature. However, they encouraged me to share the thought more in the future.

This is the biblical model for discipleship. We call it "socialization learning" rather than "schoolization learning." Children learn to use chop sticks rather than spoons and by watching, talking, and many trials and errors. Some of my Chinese friends are extremely talented in the use of chopsticks while others do not have that particular gift.

Socialization learning demands that we change the way we think about church and ministry. It will require us to carefully attend to one another.

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