You need to understand something before you read this post. I love Graham Cooke. Of the men in my stream of Charismatic faith that I am most familiar, he is the one voice that I consistently love to hear. His understanding of the Father and His ways, leave others behind in the dust. His teachings have pulled us through so many hurtful times in our lives where we have brokenly asked the Father to give us some sort of revelation on what we were experiencing. Add to that my delight in reading him say that the minute he gets a business card from someone and sees the word “apostle” before the name he throws it immediately into the trash and I was a fan for life.
The other day though I listened to a short 10 minute clip (view here if you like) of a story he told of a man in the midst of going about his busy life, who suddenly hears weeping from his neighborhood that no one else on the sidewalk can hear. After a few days of feeling like he was crazy he understood it to be a sound that God wanted him to hear. It changed this man’s life and it has changed the neighborhood that he now lives in and loves.
I loved the story and am still glad that after coming out of much of “charismania” I still believe that God does things like this. But at the end of the story, Graham does something that I believe epitomizes the charismatic renewal and the major problem that I have with the whole thing.
He says this at the end of the story: “It makes you really wonder about what sounds we are too busy to listen to. And I wonder sometimes if we stopped on the street and listened in the realm of the spirit…Would we be able to hear the sound that God is hearing in a neighborhood, in a community. And if we heard that voice…what might God be asking of us? What request might come from heaven that might radically change our life.”
I'm sorry, but I wouldn't have gone there. My problem with the exhortation that Graham gives at the end is this: Why take this story and make it about us and what we need to be doing? Why not glory in the fact that we have a God who, when He wants us to hear Him, makes sure we can. A God who wants to communicate with us. A God who will not be missed. A God who, even if we are busy on our own path - as this man was - will still break into our world and speak to us. Why take this story and then make it something that we have to do? Something we have to replicate?
This story is not primarily about us trying to hear God!!! It is about God making Himself heard! (and of a man's obedience when he hears God) It is a story of hope. It is not a story of “should” or duty.
In my old church - we would have used this story to start a new ministry of going around our neighborhoods trying to hear the voice of God. It would bring the guilt of not doing something (in this instance - listening for the voice of God) and the anxiety that we would miss something big - which always seemed to be accompanying my life :)
And that is what charismatics do so well. They take a “happening” of God. A healing, a time of visitation, a time of soaking, a time of laughter and joy, a time of weeping or a really great story and try to duplicate it the next night and the next night. Suddenly you have the “anointed” one that will bring this “happening” to your group. Soon he will have conferences to speak at and books to write so that others can have this happen to them too. It becomes about the man or woman and not about the God who did a work one day in a specific place at a specific time.
Of course we should have our ears attuned to what God has to say. Listening for the voice of God is a good thing to do. There is nothing evil in what Graham is saying - In fact in his defense I know that I were sitting with him and discussing this post I am sure he would agree with me. But it is a brilliant example of the replication of the charismatic experiences that we see today.
He loves me. He wants to communicate with me. And if he has something important to say He might just show up and knock me off my proverbial donkey, blind me with a bright light and speak out loud to me.
Now here's hoping that if that does happen I won't go towards the mass marketing of the selling of donkeys and bright spotlights and calling it God.
Monday, June 30, 2008