The final way in which God’s Satnav works is through the godly advice of Christian friends.
Discovering God’s will is often far from straightforward, which is why God has not asked us to do it on our own! As Moore writes, “Acts is a book about Christians finding guidance together. Paul began his journeys while praying with his fellow elders in Antioch. He paused to take part in the Council at Jerusalem, where after much discussion the apostles came to a consensus which ‘seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us‘ (Acts 15:28). Paul did not even use his divine vision of a man of Macedonia to impose a view on his team-mates, but let the others interpret it with him. There was a reason that Paul appointed a team of elders for each church and why he ministered as part of a wider missionary team. God gives guidance to his People together, so that we might know his will as a body, and not as Lone Rangers.” [‘Straight to the Heart of Acts’ by Phil Moore, p.180]
We tried to apply this principle by involving both the other elders in the church we were part of in Caversham, as well as Mark Landreth-Smith and Sean Green (who serve the newfrontiers churches in the geographical area we find ourselves in), right from the early days of us as a couple beginning to feel a tug towards Slough, i.e. rather than waiting until we’d settled things in our own hearts. For us, it was important to invite and be open to the input of others from the outset.
This principle is also why we’ve taken (and will continue to take) the line that we are ‘exploring the possibility’ of starting a church here in Slough … because until we have a team of friends on the ground, that is all we are doing, i.e. exploring the possibility! (I am hoping to share an update on where we’ve got to on that front at some point towards the end of this year or start of 2012.)
And this principle is why we have set aside the second Thursday evening of each month as a time (though by no means the only one) when others can look in on what we’re doing, get to know us and explore whether God is calling them to join us in what we believe God wants to see established here.
In all of this, we are eager to serve people well. After all, that’s what friends do. Though we long (because we are excited by what we believe God will do here) to see a team emerge, and for that team to become a strong base from which a church is planted, we are not so eager to build a team that we are prepared to place this over serving those who are ‘looking in’ well in the process. This is why, for example, we have already encouraged one couple to simply test the water rather than jump in with both feet. As PJ Smyth writes, “If you want to test the depth of a stream, don’t jump in with both feet.”
Leaders play a key role in this aspect of God’s guidance. Sometimes, it is their encouragement and belief in us that can cause us to ask ourselves whether God is speaking through them. On this, David Stroud in his book ‘Planting Churches Changing Communities’ writes, “In my experience, this is one of the most common ways that God starts to give us a sense of being called. You cannot simply move on your leader’s faith, you will need to hear God for yourself, but God sometimes uses other people’s exhortations to get your attention.”
God speaks to us in different ways at different times. So one type of direction is no better than another. This means, as Moore notes, that being led by God is both much easier but also much harder than simply following a satnav. Easier because God may speak to us in any one (or more than one) of a number of different ways; harder because he also expects us to be sensitive enough to each of the different ways in which he speaks to us and subsequently knit them together to reach considered conclusions in the light of what we believe he has said.