Whatever Happened to “Experiencing God?”

It wasn’t long ago that Dr. Henry Blackaby was our “It” guy. His wildly popular book and Bible study giude Expereincing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, was a huge seller for Lifeway, and the SBC was happy to push it as the answer for Sunday School, small groups, discipleship, youth groups, and anyone else willing to give 10 weeks and $19.95. Some people criticized the study’s theology, others were repelled by the Law and Order-esque niche market spinoffs, such as, Experiencing God Day by Day, Experiencing God: Eddie Bauer Edition, and E to the G: Fo’ Shizzle. Despite the commercialization of it all, I think the basic idea is a good one: we should find where God is working and join Him there.

We need to “go where God is working.” But what does that mean? In Western Europe, people are slow to come to know the Lord, and few churches have been planted. Is this an indication that we ought to leave? Pull out of France, and move everyone to China, where the good news is spreading like wildfire? Should we determine our calling by looking at the results? It is impossible to measure the extent to which God is working in the hearts and lives of Western Europeans. Only God knows that. Our measure of where God is working must be the calling that he has placed on our lives. Has God called me to Italy or Spain? Then my responsibility is to stay here until I hear otherwise from Him; as difficult as it might be, whether I see “results” or not. It is a dangerous thing to get ahead of God and assume we know what He’s doing and how He’s going to do it. It is a powerful thing to be behind God, following Him every step of the way as He uses us to take His message of Life to all the people in the world.

The whole “10/40 Window”/”Final Frontier” mentality has essentially led us to look around the world, find where God isn’t working, and start something for Him there. “There are no churches in Yokelville,” we reason, “so let’s send a career family and two ISCers.” Now I understand that it’s hard for us to even know if God is working unless we’re there to see it, but God is certainly working in those places to which He is calling us. Perhaps His direction is a better guide than statistics.

8 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to “Experiencing God?”

  1. I agree that we need to join what God is doing. I agree with the EG idea that God has invited us to join in what he is doing. But is there anywhere geographically that God is not working? I know he is drawing individuals from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people to himself. I hear the stories of God speaking to lost people in their dreams, and other radical things like that. I know they need to hear the clear Gospel from those that are sent. But I think the inbreaking of the kingdom is a global reality. It is sad that the plans of man sometimes replace the invitation of God. Glad to know you’re responding to his invitation.

  2. Is there anywhere that God is not working? That’s a good question. I think that sadly, there are places where He has “turned people over their sin” to “do what’s right in their own eyes.”

    I know God is at work “behind the scenes” all around the world. But in how many of those places is He starting “Church Planting Movements?”

    That is the real question I’d pose to the IMB, because the current Board-wide strategy limits us to doing only that.

    Good comments here, Steve. Thanks.

  3. where 2 or 3 are gathered, right?

    i get what you’re saying here. but what you were saying on reformissionary in response to video feeds also applies here, i think. no one is called follow Jesus alone (ok, maybe temporarily). i know what the IMB means by church planting movements, but i think the experience of the ethiopian eunuch was probably the beginning of a church planting movement.

    God is gathering his people. to join the church universal should include joining the visible church, even if it is underground in some locations. this is why i think rejecting the term unchurched may be needlessly splitting hairs, if we keep the connection to Christ primarily in focus, while at the same time understanding the implications of that relationship for relationships within the family of God. oops, i think this goes with a different post, but somehow it came out here. oh…wait…maybe it’s all related.

    hey stepchild, i told my wife last night that i would really like to meet you in person someday, this side of heaven.

  4. I agree with you that I don’t think it’s a matter of is God working in a specific area because I believe God desires all to be saved and therefore he MUST be working everywhere. But how do we know HOW God is going to work? We cannot just say, well, CPMs work in Asia, so let’s transplant that “method” to Western Europe. You cannot have an across-the-board method for all areas. You must take into account the heritage, culture, religion of the people you are serving, but most importantly you must not box God in. God did not draw me to Himself the same way He drew the Apostle Paul, or my husband. It’s likely he will not work the same way in Hong Kong and Paris. Or maybe he will. Thankfully, it’s not up to us.
    On the field, when my husband and I would lament the lack of any CPMs in WE, we always asked ourselves, “but what if God doesn’t want to use CPMs in WE?” We never had any answers, but only the question. But I think it’s an important question.
    The beginning of that Henry Blackaby quote says something like “Are we going to do what we want and then ask God to bless it, or are we going to join God where He is working?”
    I see “where He is working” as not being so much a physical location but as joining His Spirit. Like instead of saying that we’ll come up with a strategy that “makes sense” and pray that God will “bless the socks off of it,” we should instead be seeking to join with His Spirit: in prayer, in attitude, in perspective.
    Curtis Sergeant spoke on CPMs at MLC in 2003. And he related the story (if I remember correctly) of how he prayed and tried, and prayed and tried, and prayed and tried different things (and kept failing) until something (a massive CPM) worked. He sought out God’s direction in everything. Are we doing that?
    I believe that CPMs are an amazing way that God works, but I don’t think it’s the ONLY way.

  5. I’m working on a post about how everyone seems to want to impose some outside model (usually an American one) on our church planting efforts.

    I’m really wondering why all of us are working under the title of “Church Planter.” It’s certainly better than “Evangelist,” but why not something a little more, you know, biblical? I’d prefer that they commission us to do what Jesus talked about. Something straight out of the Great Commission like “Discipler” or “Obedience Instructor” would be nice. Ok, so maybe not “Obedience Instructor,” but you get my point.

  6. Other Ms or people stateside would always ask: “Now what’s your job?” And we’d say, “Well, I think our official title is ‘Church Planter,’ but really we’re just getting involved in our community in whatever way we can be of service, making great friends, seeing how God is already speaking to them, and joining in the conversation.” We were blown away time after time by God’s sovereignty in our meetings with people or who we would see in town so much so that we came to expect meeting the person that we had been prompted to pray for that morning. It was wonderful to live by the Spirit that way.

  7. Enjoying reading your posts. Making me think deeper about some issues that I’ve allowed to remain in the shadows. I was with the IMB about 5 years ago and am currently with another org – not a statement, but a matter of circumstance. As for the name for a biblical role for what your title should be, what about apostle? We shy away from that word because of the “charasmatic” misuse of it, but the fact is, you and I both have been “sent out” by the LORD. As for CPMs, I have experience working within one and they are not without their problems. CPM is not a strategy – its an explanation . . . and possibly a goal. It is interesting how everyone is now calling everything a CPM. Check out NAMB and they are using the phrase of there work here in the States. Last I’ve checked, no CPMs occuring under their watch here. I want to encourage you with the thought that maybe obedience and praying/working toward seeing God move in a big way are not mutually exclusive. “Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” Press on. Press in. Press out.

  8. EG has made a huge contribution to the work here in Ecuador. It is still being used and studied. Earlier this year we led many of our hc leaders through the study. EG is constantly referenced by believers and often someone will say, “remember what we studied about how God speaks?”

    If indeed we should find where God is working and join Him there, then maybe we should be directing/ sending massive numbers of Ms to the harvest cities of the world (such many other parts of Latin America.) Instead, it seems we are cutting back on the harvest fields and as you point out sending them to areas that are non-responsive.

    I guess it is a both/and situation, but is odd that we have so quickly forgotten EG maxim to join God where He is working and are cutting back on sending Ms where there is abundant working of God.

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