“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
In movement all over the world we are now beginning to see the breaking forth of the apostolic church of the Spirit. Many are having a deep and profound experience of an Emmanuel of the Spirit, God with us, a knowledge that in the power of the Spirit Jesus has come to guide his people himself; an experience of his leading that is definite and as immediate as the cloud by day and the fire by night.
This is the reason we have small group meeting starting now and we are going through together to practice the Spiritual Disciplines together and pray to the Lord that we will experience the Spirit working deep in our soul.
I. Individual Guidance
But the knowledge of the direct, active, immediate leading of the Spirit is not sufficient. Individual guidance must yield to corporate guidance.
Much of the teaching on divine guidance in our century has been noticeably deficient on corporate aspect. We have received excellent instruction on how God leads us through Scripture and through reason and through circumstances and through the prompting of the Spirit upon the individual heart.
But we have heard little about how God leads through his people, the body of Christ. On that subject there is profound silence.
II. People Guidance
God does guides the individual richly and profoundly, but he also guides groups of people and can instruct the individual through the group experience.
Some individual may convince that when we have Jesus we have all we need, the blessing and the guidance. Yes, when we have Jesus we have all except one thing. When God created everything he said they all are very good. But when God created Adam, Adam has God and everything God created for him. But God found him not having all he needs he miss one thing, a wife, or a people. That’s what God has in his mind since before the creation that Jesus was going to get the believers to become His children and also to belong in a church.
Illustration: God led the children of Israel out of bandage as a people. Everyone saw the cloud and fiery pillar. They were not a gathering individuals who happened to be going in the same direction, they were a people under the theocratic rule of God. The people, however, soon found God unmediated presence too awful, too glorious and begged, “Let not God speak to us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:19). So Moses became their mediator then later God used prophets to give guidance to people. But a day came when Israel rejected even the prophet in favor of a king. From that point on the prophet was the outsider.
When Jesus saves people he put them into a group called church or family. Patiently God prepared a people and in the fullness of time Jesus came. And with him dawned a new day. Once again a people were gathered who lived under the immediate, theocratic rule of the Spirit. He taught them that they, too, could hear the heaven-sent voice and most clearly when together (Matt. 18:19-20).
In those words Jesus gave his disciples both assurance and authority:
There was assurance that when a people genuinely gathered in his name his will could be discerned.
Assured that they had heard the voice of the true Shepherd, they were able to pray and act with authority. His will plus their unity equaled authority.
No doubt those experience in discerning the will of God in community contributed greatly as Paul’s understanding of the Church as the body of Christ. No one person possessed everything. No one could hear the whole counsel of God in isolation. Sadly, we must note that by the time John received his great apocalyptic vision, the believing community was beginning to cool.
III. Models of Guidance:
One of the best ways we learn is from models of people who have struggled corporately to hear the voice from on high. One to the most delightful examples comes from “the poor little monk of Assisi,” St. Francis. Francis, it seems, was in “great agony of doubt” about whether he should devote himself only to prayer and meditation, which was a common practice in those days, or whether he should also engage in preaching missions. Wisely, Francis sought out counsel. “As the holy humility that was in him did not allow him to trust in himself or in his own prayers, he humbly turned to others in order to know God’s will in this matter.”
He sent message to two of his most trusted friends, Sister Claire and Brother Silvester, asking them to meet one of their “purer and more spiritual companions” and seek the will of God in the matter. Immediately, they gathered to pray and both Sister Claire and Brother Sylvester returned with same answer. When the messenger returned, St. Francis first washed his feet and prepared him a meal. Then, kneeling down before the messenger, St. Francis asked him, “What does my Lord Jesus Christ order me to do?” The messenger replied that Christ has revealed that, “He wants you to go about the world preaching, because God did not call you for yourself alone but also for the salvation of others.” Receiving the message as the undisputed word of Christ, St. Francis jumped up saying, “So let’s go, in the name of the Lord,” whereupon he immediately embarked on a preaching mission.
In this experience Francis was doing more than seeking out the advice of wise counselors. He was seeking a way to open the windows of heaven o reveal the mind of Christ, and he took it as such, to great good of all to whom he ministered.
IV. The limit of Corporate Guidance
As we all know, dangers exist in corporate guidance as well as individual guidance. Perhaps the most menacing danger is manipulation and control by leaders. Leaders can impose their will upon individuals, an authorized system through which all different opinions can be brought into line. Such manipulative perversion results in the stifling of fresh spiritual vitality. The prophet Isaiah tells us that the coming Messiah “will not break a bruise reed, or quench a smoldering wick” (Isaiah 42:3; Matt. 12:20). Tenderness toward each individual situation must inform all our deliberation.
There is also danger in the opposite direction. It is possible for a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people to hinder Spiritual inspired leaders. While leaders need the counsel and discernment of the believing community, they also need the freedom to lead. If God has called them to lead, they should not have to bring every detail of life to the community.
Another danger is that corporate guidance will become divorced from biblical norms. The one Spirit will never lead in opposition to the written Word that he inspired.
Finally, we recognize that corporate guidance is limited by our finitude. We are fallible human beings and there are times when, despite our best efforts, our own prejudices and fears keep us from a Spirit-led unity. Sometimes we simply see things differently just like Paul and Barnabas could not agree on whether to take John Mark with them on their second missionary journey (Acts 15:39). If this happen, we need to be kind to each other.
Also God guides us in the meeting but if we don’t get it He won’t leave us. He will continue to straighten our way as the Proverb 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”
WHY: When need for God’s way of decision, know how to seek and trust guidance from a group of believers and when meet together don’t neglect to pray for each other.
Dallas Willard states, “The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitants.” Such a community lives under the immediate and total rulership of the Holy Spirit. May almighty God continue to gather such people in our days.