When it comes to innovation, a good idea is not necessarily a “God idea.”
The difference between the two is a matter of discernment… and discernment requires an ability to recognize God’s voice.
Discernment is rarely something you can microwave or manufacture. It is cultivated by spending time in God’s Word and in God’s presence.
There are no shortcuts.
Innovation is often a response to problems or challenges that arise in life and ministry, and “God ideas” are generated through a posture of listening. Lord, what are you saying? Where are you leading? How should we solve the problems we are facing? How should we innovate to create a new solution? What new thing should we consider?
This approach is counterintuitive.
The more pressing the problem, the more urgency for action. Rather than taking the time necessary to listen, it’s easy to jump right in by gathering a group of people around a whiteboard, providing large amounts of coffee, and diving into a whirlwind brainstorming session. Those conversations might yield a lot of really good ideas, but “God ideas” will require something more. They will require us to listen for the Spirit of innovation to speak. He is the only one who can bring lasting change, and hearing his voice is critical.
I have hearing problems.
It’s been a thorn in my side for as long as I can remember. My first hearing test was in 4th grade, and I distinctly remember being the only classmate called back for a second test. I have a condition referred to as “genetic nerve deafness,” and outside of a miracle from God, it will progressively get worse. It’s something I inherited from my father.
Every year, like clockwork, I get my hearing tested. They sit me down in a tiny sound-proof room to limit the background noise. Audiologists call it an anechoic chamber, and even the name sounds a bit ominous, like something out of a thriller movie.
The Anechoic Chamber… coming soon to a theater near you.
It is a bit creepy. I’ve only experienced the smaller version with a window to the outside world, but the largest of these chambers are designed to be completely soundproof. They often use fiberglass wedges on the walls and ceiling, and many are encased in cement a meter or more thick. The experience of being inside one can be quite frightening. Why? Because it is so quiet.
The Quiet Place
Silence is crucial in hearing from God.
The Quiet Place is a dystopian thriller starring Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. The story follows a married couple and their children as they live on an isolated farm in the middle of the forest. Their primary obsession? Be as quiet as possible. Sightless aliens with sharp hearing have taken over the planet and killed most of the human population.
Fortunately for us, when life gets noisy and hectic, we don’t run the risk of rousing alien life forms to hunt us down as prey. But make no mistake, it is spiritually dangerous to live a noisy life. If we want to survive spiritually in 2024 and if we want to cultivate “God ideas,” we will need to remove the noise.
Psalm 46 creates an image of chaos and noise that seems to mirror our current reality. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms are falling, people are dying, disease is spreading, social media is blaring, deaths are mounting, and economies are struggling. In the midst of the commotion and distraction and danger, God speaks, and he says, “Be still and know that I am God.” There is a stillness that recognizes God as sovereign.
He is in charge. He is on the throne.
We need a “quiet place,” an anechoic chamber that removes the outside noise, allowing us to focus our attention on him. He has something he wants to say, “God ideas” that require us to get into his presence and listen. Do you have a “quiet place”?
Katie and I have four children, and one of them was born with colic, not to mention being a light sleeper. Surviving those early years with our daughter was rough. We tried everything to get her to fall asleep and finally broke down and paid $35.99 for a little white canister that did one thing and one thing only: It produced white noise.
Immediately after plugging it in, our child fell fast asleep. Why? She could no longer hear the sounds of the night, the opening of doors, the thump of footsteps, or the click of a switch. The white noise deadened her sense of hearing.
Life is a white noise maker.
The 24/7 news cycles, smart phones, sporting events, and social media apps have each deadened us to the still, small voice of God. Alien life forms, white noise machines, and anechoic chambers all illustrate the fact that we need to cultivate a “quiet place” to hear from God. The noise of the world around us has a way of distracting us and deadening our souls. It also has a way of leading us in the wrong direction.
It’s a New Year
I was reading the Old Testament recently and came across Joshua 3:4, “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” The Israelites are preparing to enter uncharted territory, and Joshua instructs them to keep their eyes fixed on the Ark of the Covenant. They had never been that way before. The same is true today.
We have entered uncharted territory.
I’ve written previous articles on the nature of the post-Christian, postmodern, digital Babylon we are currently experiencing in North America. We have never been this way before. No one has been this way before. There is no clear roadmap for life and ministry in 2024 and beyond. The way forward will not be found in “5 Strategic Moves” or “7 Easy Steps.”
Many of the maps that guided us in the past are no longer working or accurate. We need new mapmakers and innovators. This will require listening to God and learning how to cultivate a “quiet place” for hearing his voice. It may not come with a shout or a scream. Instead, it will more than likely be a whisper. It will mean creating a spiritual anechoic chamber to silence the distractions, turning off the “white noise makers” in life and listening.
God has something important he wants to say to you, your family, your church, and your ministry in 2024. Innovation will be required. We’ve never been this way before. A few weeks ago, I was prompted to share a verse with a friend who seemed to be moving into uncharted territory. It was a promise from Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
Take the time to listen for his voice.