How do we communicate to others about God “speaking” to us today? Some say that we should not jump to any conclusions by using other descriptive words when talking about how God speaks, and are comfortable staying with the description as it stands: “God spoke to me.” However, I do think it would be wise, given the current culture of competing worldviews and sometimes downright intolerance towards the Christian faith, to rethink how we convey God “speaking” to believers today. We’re finding it difficult enough to promulgate Christianity in a information-flooded society, and if we use terms that only other believers understand, that may make us more suspect or misunderstood.
Since speaking implies face-to-face communication, when we are talking to a seeker and say, “God spoke to me” about something we read in the Bible, for instance, it is highly probable that the non-Christian would think we’re not in our right mind; perhaps others who are Christian may think we’re being spiritually prideful, as if God favors us because He ‘spoke’ to us. In ancient Biblical times, I would think it was more common to use terminology as it is written in the Old Testament. Today, however, since we live in a skeptical society, we need to be wise with how we communicate issues discussing matters of God communicating to us.
Although we need to be countercultural in many ways, we also need to be sensitive to the nuances of communicating to a diverse population. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (ESV), “ Although I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law, that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God, but under the law of Christ that I might win those outside the law.) To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some…”
Because the notion of speaking face-to-face has multiple meanings, I do think using new phraseology in mentioning how God speaks with expressions like “guiding,” or “overseeing” is a good idea. I often use the phrase: “God downloaded” something to me when I am talking to young people, since it is a term they understand, about how the Holy Spirit showed me something in the Scriptures, or inspired a thought that lead me towards His will in a given situation.
This may seem like small potatoes to some of you, but our words have power and communicate more about who we are then perhaps we fully recognize. We need to be careful with our words, and especially attentive in presenting the gospel to a cynical world. Scripture, not experience, is the final and ultimate guide to how we need to speak and act. Let’s continue to learn and be open when expressing our faith by using some (the appropriate ones) of today’s modern expressions.