Fasting
Day 1 of Prayer - Adoration

How to Connect with God

Connect_with_godA few thoughts from this weekend's message about knowing God better ...

Jesus told his disciples to “abide” in him (John 15:5). They were to stay “connected” at all times. The apostle Paul’s one goal in life was to “know God” (Phil.3:7-11). His prayer for the church at Ephesus was that they might “know Him better” (Eph.1:15-17). But how do we get closer to God? How can we experience God in a more intimate and meaningful way?

Different people give different answers: “Get up early and spend hours in prayer”, “Stay up late and write in a journal for hours”, “Fast regularly”, “Go on spiritual retreats all by yourself”, “Memorise lots of Scripture” or “Speak in tongues for an hour each day”. Well-intentioned people often tell us that their way is the “right way” and the proof of spirituality. Often we try these things that may work for others, yet for some reason they may not work for us, so we end up frustrated and wrongly believe that maybe being close to God is just for a few special people.

You’re Unique

As humans, we have a lot in common – a lot of similarities. However, we are also each very different and very unique in the way God has made us (personality, spiritual gifts, etc). We also experience God differently. We each have a unique relationship with God that is different than anyone else. We need to discover how God has “wired us” to best “abide”. The activity or means is not as important as the fact that you do “abide”. When do you feel closest to God? What is your “abiding style”? How do you best experience God?

Ways of Connecting with God (“Abiding Styles”)

There are different ways that we each experience God. Each style represents different traditions of the Christian faith. We will have a natural bent to one or more styles and may find some others more difficult.

1. Contemplative Style

* People with this style enjoy silence and solitude, possibly out in creation. They like isolation and therefore guard their alone times. They don’t fill their diaries up. They like to walk, visit a forest, journal or go for drives out in the country (environment is important).

* Too much time with people and activities drain them. They prefer to be “un-busy”.

* They have enormous capacity for extended prayer and worship times. They enjoy being quiet – meditating, reflecting and thinking deeply. Sometimes they may appear “in the clouds” and forget stuff.

* They march to a different drumbeat and at times seem to be out of step with other people. They are very sensitive spiritually. They can be the church’s spiritual “conscience”. Often great songwriters and authors are contemplative.

If you’re not this style, then this kind of stuff drives you crazy. Historically we can think of people such as the Apostle John, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Madame Guyon and Henri Nouwen.

2. Intellectual Style

* Their mind has to be fully challenged before spiritual growth occurs. They enjoy reading and studying God’s Word to gain deeper understanding. They enjoy reading intellectually stimulating material.

* They struggle with just testimonial or experiential activities or church events. They want “substance” and “theology” not froth and bubble. Where’s the “meat”?

* When they are convinced about something, watch out! There’s no stopping them. Once the mind is convinced, passion and decision follows.

* They’re passionate about “renewing” people’s minds (Rom.12:1).

Historically we can think of people such as Paul, Martin Luther, Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias and N.T. Wright.

3. Serving Style

* Some people feel closest to God (most joyful, exited and alive in Christ) when helping others and using your gifts. Even more than when doing prayer or Bible study.

* They thrive spiritually when they are labouring in the kingdom. They enjoy being an instrument in God’s hands.

* This could be within the church, through social action (feeding the poor, etc) or social justice.

* People with this style enjoy making things happen. They love to see the church or their ministry advance and grow. They revel in a challenge-intensive environment. They are most enthusiastic when fully challenged. They feel best when going all out for God.

* They are at their spiritual best when at top speed. They live at full speed, to the point that others fear for them. They are action orientated and love to live on the edge. They thrive on being active and motivating others.

* They pray more and live in more dependence when spending and being completely spent for the kingdom of God. They are kingdom maniacs. They choose to live like this. Try to slow them down and they’ll find a way to do something. I’m not suggesting that “insanity” or “out of control” is right.

Historically we can think of people such as John Wesley, George Whitefield, D.L. Moody, William Booth (the Salvation Army) and Mother Theresa.

4. Relational Style

* Isolation doesn’t work. Praying alone, doing Bible study alone, serving alone or worshipping alone is hard.

* When they get together with other Christians, their spiritual experience of God comes alive.

* A community component is essential. “Together” is the key. Groups are essential. Their favourite Scripture is “Where two or three are gathered together in my name …” (Mt.18:20)

5. Charismatic Style

The focus is on what the power of God can do. It thrives on the manifest presence of God among His people.

* Experiencing supernatural things like prophecy, visions and dreams, spiritual warfare (including deliverance), speaking in tongues (or “spiritual language”) or ministry time (“falling down”) brings them closest to God.

* They flourish when they can “feel” or “see” something.

* They enjoy praying for people (for physical, emotional or spiritual needs), waiting on God for “words” or direction.

* They thrive when they can sense or see evidence of God’s power.

* Their heart is opened to God through music and a worship atmosphere. King David was like this. Worship brought him close to God (Psalms). “Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your heart (Eph.5:18-19).”

Historically we can think of people such as Evan Roberts, Aimee Semple McPherson (the Pentecostal movement and charismatic renewal), Kathryn Kuhlman and John Wimber.

Which is the ‘right way’? All of them!

Cultivating Your Style

1. Identify your primary abiding style(s). You may have more than one. Don’t pick the one you think that you should have or want to have. Accept the way God has made you.

2. Arrange your life so you have ample opportunity for doing what connects you most to God. Invest lots of time into doing what draws you closer to God and helps you “abide” better. Create a spiritual formation plan around your style.

3. Understand and accept how other people are different. Help others discover the way God has made them and give them permission to “abide” that way. In marriage, understand each other. On your team, understand each other.

4. Learn other ways to connect with God. Develop an appreciation for all the styles. Jesus modeled all of these styles in perfect balance during his life on earth. We are to imitate him and walk “in his steps” (1 Pet.2:21). Avoid the imbalance that can come with attention to only one style.

5. Consider the implications of this model for leaders – of teams, small groups and churches. Create an environment that encourages expression of all of these styles, not just the one you are most comfortable with.

Recommended Resources

* Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of the Christian Faith by Richard Foster (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1998).

* Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), chapter 11, “The Leader’s Pathway”.

P.S. For a free mp3 of this entire message (Jan.31st, 2010), visit our church web site resource section.

Comments

Hi Mark,

Wow! Thanks for this post. It's so easy to think my style of devotion is the only one, and to misunderstand other expressions of it. Very thought provoking (Yup I'm the intellectual!! And contemplative as well.)

The other way I have thought about how I connect with God is in light of the five love languages book. I've realised that a major motivator behind regular bible reading and quiet times with God is because my primary love language is quality time. I make a priority of spending regular quality time with the people I love. I love just being around them, talking and listening to how they feel about things, what their hopes and dreams are, and what God is doing in their lives; sort of contemplating them and coming to an understanding of who they are. And also sharing all those same sorts of things of my life with them. I've found that my quiet times / bible reading tends to be a similar expression for me. I do it because I love Jesus and I show it by making regular quality time to just spend in His presence, just talking and contemplating life together.

Thanks again for this post!!

God bless,
Bec

Hi Mark,

I haven't had a lot to do with WCF or any or it's offspring since 1998 when severe damage prevented me from being able to participate.

Some of that was inflicted by your leadership fueled by misinformation from close to home and perception. Someone said to me once - perception isn't everything - it's the only thing. Too bad for me I guess.

Though I have to say that some of my memories of WCF are very good and I am very impressed with the path you and Nicole have taken and the continued strength of your convictions. You are both a testimony to not just God's faithfulness but your own choices to obey at a time when such a heavy and burdensome mantel must have seemed overwhelming.

Thank you both for showing such character, courage and strength.

Hi Mark Conner. I really dont follow you too much or at all. But I found your website helpful. I am a 20 year old black male who believes in God and knows him as my savior. I was disconnected with my church about two years ago. I was the drummer, but when I turned 18 I got a job and I wasn't able to go on sundays any more. I also felt that alot of people in my church my fake. In the past year or so my life has took a turn. I found myself questioning God. When I saw a program on tv about God, I would turn and not even think twice about it. I was still believing in God, but I felt my connection was lost. MY friend Jameson has recently gave his life to Christ. I am very happy for him. He is changing his life around and looks like things are working out. I went to church with him a couple of weeks back and I loved the expierience I got at his church. But I still fill like something is missing in my life. I want to be reconnected with God. I found myself praying today and asking God to take me back in his loving arms. When I was down on my knees I felt this feeling come over my body. It was the kind of feeling that you only have for a person you dearly love. I know God would never abandon me in any part of my life. It just felt so good to pray. I know God looks over me everyday. I just wanted to know is there a way for me to take my experiences with God to another level. If you could respond to this I would really appreciate it. Thank You.

Thanks for this post. I am the Chaplain of my residence hall at Indiana Wesleyan University and I'm in the process of creating a survey to figure out how to best serve the girls in my building. (Through a little research I came across your post!) I want to better understand how each of the girls connect with God, so that I can facilitate times of growth as a community. I can't wait to see how God works this year and I appreciate your article because it encourages me to not "put God in a box" in terms of how He chooses to relate to me (or others!)

Great post Mark, something of substance here. Well worth reading over and over. I used to be quite frustrated not knowing my standing with God, i once wished He could have implanted a dial on our forehead so all we had to do was look in the mirror and see if the needle was in the red, green or yellow!

I must say that sometimes the harder you try to connect with God, the further away he seems to be. Is this peculiar to me??? I have had to learn that in striving to reach up to connect to Him, actually invalidates the fact that once born again he actually lives within us... and is not far from each of us. So it can be an expression that is not of faith.

The special times that I have experienced with the Lord seem at times to be separated by such long times of faith alone. However I have learnt that the barren, seemingly fruitless times, the times of tribulation build many things that are worth more than gold. I think I am able to rejoice in and look forward to 'tough times' because they are the times when I get an opportunity to grow. This makes them exciting.

Yes, I think there are 'seasons' of our soul, Peter. Sometimes a lot of growth happens in times when there are not as many 'feelings'.

I also think there may be different seasons when our primary abiding style may change a bit ... and maybe as we get older it does too?

Hi Mark,

Great message of substance and maturity. I do think that individual abiding style may change a bit(in a healthy way) over time...e.g., from charismatic to intellectual/comtemplative or vice versa. It is important leaders understand this and have respect for all styles.

When I was in Cult, the is ONLY one valid style, i.e., of the abusive/authoritarian Cult leader! Praise God I left.

Today, I appreciate and respect the diversity within the Biblical parameter. Very humbling indeed.

Thanks Mark.

Hi Mark
great post. i found it very liberating and freeing.I think sometimes we are so busy trying to fit the mould that we miss the amazing amount of detail that God went into making us unique.
I think that as leaders we can tend to think our style is the best style (similar to teaching styles i guess), I appreciate the teaching that it is all styles that connect with God.
I couldn't get the post out of my head, so thankyou

Dear Mark, I stumbled across this post after weeks of fasting and crying and praying for God to show me Himself. Since 2005 every relationship I have been in has ended badly with my partner marrying another, and I have begun to pray for God to take away my life if He intended for me to spend it alone and unloved. I have been aching for 5 years and I am tired, and while I'm typing this post with tears on my face I just want Him to know that I'm tired.

Dear Mark and all tired ones,

Indeed ,how liberating it is to know that God connects with us differently. His invitation to us is always the same although the methods are different.
I 'd like to share this poem from my blog http://sharereal.wordpress.com/
..and I connect with him in thoughts and creative words that He puts in me.Is it a contemplative style? Whatever the style,His heart and hands are open to embrace.

Intersecting with God
The way
Indicates a passage through time and space
Movement … a particular direction through the maze
Purpose ….. so that one pursues a goal to an end
It is the pathway, a passage way with many a bend
The truth
The state of being and has its root in the ground
It brings revelation of self and the world around
The true facts about something that is concrete
True to an original or to a standard so exquisite
The Life
From birth to death – The state of being alive
A specific existence where one can live and thrive
The capacity for growth, vigour , renewal , reproduction
Vitality, energy and opportunities for more viable action
The Intersection is a place where the lines cross
One tangent off and missing it would be our loss
We are often invited to this place of encounter
Where faith meets with our own counter culture.
His words are these : “Let your lives intersect with mine
Until your desires, dreams and purposes with Me entwine”

“….I am the way and the truth and the life….”, Jesus answered. John 14:6

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