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Mark Batterson on the Catalyst Podcast – Hearing God’s Voice

 

Jason Haynes at Catalyst Chats With Mark Batterson and Talks About Hearing God’s Voice

Jason Haynes:

So at Catalyst we’re really excited to have Mark Batterson here with us on the Catalyst Podcast today. Many of you probably know Mark as the pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC. Author of several books including “The Circle Maker” his newest book “Whisper” which we’re gonna talk about in just a little bit and he’s also been a long time friend of Catalyst. So, Mark, we’re happy to have you. Why don’t we just start by, I would love to just get a little bit of update from you. What’s going on with the church and how things are going.

Mark Batterson:

Yeah, Jason. It’s great to be with you. I’m a raving Catalyst fan. You know, when I think we had three people on our staff we came to our first Catalyst conference and you guys have coached us from the very beginning, so grateful for that. We’re now one church with eight campuses that kind of the newest endeavor is we opened the doors to D.C. Dream Center. The mayor came out and cut the ribbon about six weeks ago and so we have a core conviction that God’s going to bless us in proportion to how we give to missions and care for the poor in our city. That’s what we’re trying to do and the Dream Center is a way for us to change a few of the statistics that we’d like to change in our city and bless some kids and give them a dream in the process. Pretty exciting, you know, it’s a good season for us here. I’ll tell you this, when you’re in Washington D.C., Jason, never a dull moment.

Jason:

Yes. Especially now. That’s for sure. I get a little update on my phone every day from Politico that’s just kind of like, “Here’s what’s going on in Washington” and on a Sunday not too long ago … it’s literally like the insider gossip of D.C. Some of it is really valuable and then other parts are not. It literally was like, “So and so was spotted at National Community Church.” And I was like, “Wow. There you go. Good for them. At least they’re there.” That’s good.

Mark:

Yeah, you never know who is gonna pop in with their security detail. That’s part of doing church here in the nation’s capital.

Jason:

Well, hey, I’m glad to talk about your newest book. I think this is such an important subject. Our whole team here at Catalyst read The Circle Maker together and obviously that’s just such a powerful and helpful message on how to pray and kind of the coming from “you” side of things. This book is really about hearing the voice of God. I’m curious or interested like, how much of this book is a continuation of that message? Is some of it based on feedback that you got from Circle Maker? Or what’s the origin story?

Mark:

Yeah, you know I think prayer is a two-sided coin. One side is talking to God and that really would have been the focus of the Circle Maker. I think Whisper is about listening to God and, Jason, if you pin my arm behind my back and ask me which one’s more important, I would have to say listening because it’s about hearing God’s voice and at the end of the day that’s what turns prayer into a dialogue. I believe in a God who speaks and who speaks today like he has throughout history. I think Whisper is almost like a sequel to The Circle Maker and I almost feel like the two books probably ought to be read in tandem.

Jason:

Yeah. So important and I know that so many people who are probably listening to this, they talk about the difficulty of actually hearing the voice of God. This is really what you’re diving into we hear from God in so many different ways than an audible voice, right?

Mark:

Yeah, I mean, the human ear is able to hear frequencies between 20 and 20,000 hertz and anything outside that hearing range is either infrasonic or ultrasonic. Honestly, that’s where sound begins to do interesting things so when we think about the voice of God, I think we think about his audible voice. There are a lot of people who say, “I’ve never heard the voice of God.” And that may be true if it’s an audible voice. The reality is the entire universe came into existence because God said, “Let there be light.” The universe was created by His acoustic oscillation so the reality is you’ve never not heard His voice. His voice is all around you all the time so we think phonics but probably ought to think physics. God uses His voice to create and reveal and heal and you know, we use our voices to talk like we’re doing right now. God’s voice is so much more than that. Before I even get into the seven languages, you know that’s part of what I talk about in the book, the way that God can speak infrasonically and ultrasonically and everything in between.

Jason:

A lot of times our biggest challenge can be slowing down, getting away from the white noise and being able to hear that whisper but that’s how we’re going to hear Him speak.

Mark:

I think I can say by a degree of certainty as it relates to everybody who’s listening to this podcast, Jason. One is that your life is too loud and two, your schedule is too busy. I think just about everybody falls into that category. One of the questions I try to answer you know, “Why does God speak in a whisper?” Because He has an outside voice and He’s not afraid to use it. I think His outside voice can be kind of intimidating but you know, He woos us with the whisper. The question is why?

My theory is that when someone speaks in a whisper, you have to get very close to them to hear them. You have to put your ear right by their mouth. I think God does it to draw us close to Himself. In fact, when my kids were little I’d play a little trick on them. I’d speak in a whisper, they’d get close and I’d reach out and grab them and hug them. I think God plays the same trick on us. That we think the goal of hearing the voice of God is hearing the voice of God but for God, the goal is intimacy. It’s about relationship and so He speaks in a whisper so we have to get close enough to Him that we can not just hear His voice but hear His heart.

I’m just grateful for a God who speaks in a whisper and of course, the seven languages that I talk about. Really those are just seven different ways that God whispers to us.

Jason:

Let’s dive into those a little bit. I would love to kind of pick on a few of them. Why don’t you just take a second and just give us what those seven languages are. Then I’d love for you to pick a couple that are maybe, kind of like, “Yeah, I knew that was gonna be one but it’s really hard for us to do well.” And then maybe a couple that are like, “Hey, that’s surprising.”

Mark:

Well, you know the first language is Scripture. I want people to hear this. Listen, it’s in a category by itself and the other six languages, I call them secondary languages. Scripture is the filter for all these other languages and I think it’s important to say that up front. The other six are desires, dreams, doors, people, promptings and pains. When you look at Scripture, you see God speaking in those different ways. I think it’s the same yesterday, today and forever and so He continues to speak in the voice of desire or the voice of dreams or sometimes the language we don’t really want to hear and that’s the voice of pain.

I think it starts with desire, Jason. I think delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of His heart. The word ‘give’ means to conceive and so I think when we’re in right relationship with God; those desires actually become compass needles. Now, obviously we have simple desires and those need to be sanctified but I think there are Godly desires and we’ve got to learn how to discern those desires in a way that God is speaking through them. I think it starts right there and each of these languages is like learning Spanish. I took three and a half years of Spanish in high school and honestly, yo hablo un poco Espanol. I can’t even roll my R’s so, you know, pero doesn’t sound too impressive.

It’s a language that takes time to acquire and I think that’s true of all of these. It’s gonna take some time to learn these languages but with a little patience, with a little practice, we begin to discern His voice in new ways.

Jason:

Going back to desire just for a second, I think just as you said, that can be a tricky one for us because we have to discern where our desires are coming from.

Just give us a little bit more on how to discern you know, if it’s desire of the flesh or desire of the Spirit. Then you also talk about the voice of gladness associated with that.

Mark:

Yeah, well, Frederick Buechner talks about this idea the “voice of gladness” and I love that. I think we have this mistaken notion that if we’re in the will of God, He’s gonna send us some place we don’t want to go to do something we don’t want to do and we won’t be happy. No, that’s not the way that God works. When He calls you to something, he gives you the desire to do it. Even if it’s the last place that you thought you would want to be, when you’re there, He gives you the desire to be there. I think desire is so critical, you know, the first tenet of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is, “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”.

How often do we stop to think, “How much am I enjoying God?”

Because honestly, that’s a pretty good measure of spiritual maturity, and I think we just have the wrong impression, or the wrong notion when it comes to that. I believe you ought to love what you do and do what you love. In fact, Jason, sometimes when I talk to church planners, and they don’t know where to go, you know, I’ll often ask them, “Well, where do you want to go? Where do you want to live? Where do you want to raise a family? Do you like lakes? Well, think about Minnesota, they have at least 10,000 of them. Do you like mountains? Well, Colorado has some incredible mountains.” I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with trying to discern where those desires would take us.

In the same breath I want to say this, we need to be fluent in all of these languages. Scripture…God’s never going to tell you to do something that’s outside His good pleasing and perfect will as revealed in Scripture. So, if you have a desire that’s going to take you some place that’s outside of those parameters, that’s a sinful desire. Then we need the language of people. We need people who can speak the truth in love and to our lives when we are going in a direction that’s unhealthy or unholy. I think all of these begin to play together and hopefully by the end of the book you get fluent in all seven languages and you kind of hear God in stereo, so to speak.

Jason:

Again, this is for leaders, obviously for everyone, but for leaders especially. The way that God can use people in order to increase our awareness of ourselves. I know that you used this idea and Mark, the first time I met you I came up to your office with Brad Lomenick just as an aside and it looked like you had wallpaper bookshelves. As if it were a wallpaper that was bookshelves and it was actually just your walls in your office are books. The entire walls.

I know you talk about this idea of the Johari window, which I had actually previously heard about as well. This is so important to leaders when it comes to being self aware and again, like God speaking to us in this voice. Talk about that just a little bit as well.

Mark:

Yeah, you know I first stumbled into the Johari window when I was in grad school. Man, this is 20 years ago and by the way, it sounds really fancy “Johari window” but the funny thing it’s actually a combination of the names of the two guys that came up with it; Joe and Harry.

It’s a great matrix on human personality, and I think for leaders it’s priceless. We won’t deep dive but the arena quadrant, the façade quadrant, the unknown quadrant but it’s a third quadrant that I kind of focus on in the language of people cause it’s a blind spot quadrant. It’s what you don’t know about you but others know about you. This is when … how do I say it … your zipper’s down and you need someone to tell you to close the barn door. You know, this is when you have parsley on the front tooth and someone’s gotta tell you about it. Bottom line is we all have blind spots. We’re blind to some of our problems, we’re blind to some of our potential. We so desperately need people who can almost prophetically speak into those blind spots and call us out. That’s what Jesus did and I think that’s what we’re called to do as leaders.

What I wanted to do was just share that matrix in the book to give leaders a framework within which to operate. I tell you, it’s our blind spots that, well, that’s what causes accidents on the road and that’s what causes accidents in our relationships. When we’re unaware of what’s in our blind spot and so I’m just a big believer that, listen, no matter what your theological persuasion; I think we can afford to be a little bit more prophetic and what I mean by that, you know, a prophetic word is for comforting, strengthening and encouraging. It’s something that the Spirit of God inspires in us to speak to another person. I think that’s the thing that can take relationships to the next level and when we begin to operate that way; I think it takes our leadership to the next level. It gives us a prophetic edge.

You know, we live in a culture where everybody wants to be heard but has so little to say. I hope that leaders listening, listen, I pray that God would give you a prophetic voice but I’ll tell you this; it starts with a prophetic ear. It’s praying that seven word prayer that Samuel prayed, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”. We need a prophetic ear so that we can hear what God’s saying cause if we listen to God, people will listen to us because we’ll actually have something to say that’s worth hearing.

Jason:

That’s so powerful. I’m thinking about how we just got finished up with our Catalyst Atlanta event, and we were talking about being of good courage, obviously out of Joshua 1:9 as, sort of, our basis for that. We define good courage as it’s used in Joshua 1:9 as being infused by the Spirit. As I’m listening to you talk, I’m thinking about how this good courage is required in our availability to the voice of the Spirit is what’s required in order to give and receive a prophetic word. It takes some courage for some people to give because we may have that “well, who am I?” perspective and then to receive, if it’s something that’s tough to receive, as a leader we have to receive it in the Spirit and again, have this whisper connection in order to do that.

Mark:

Just so listeners know, in the book, Whisper, I share some ground rules. I try to be pretty practical with each of these languages. I share a few ground rules like, no one’s about rebuke and don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it first passes through the filter of Scripture. Don’t make decision in a vacuum, always encourage before you correct, tough conversations get tougher the longer you wait. I try to get down to some of the brass tax of if you’re a leader, you live in this world where you’re dealing with people. It’s a language of people and figuring out how to speak that language is, certainly, one of these seven languages and it’s pretty critical.

Jason:

There’s another one that I think ties into this that is so important for leaders given the position of influence that so many of us are in and that’s prompting. You know, I’m thinking about this from sort of the same aspect but the aspect of making much of ourselves or being willing to hear and to follow that prompting from God.

Mark:

Maybe I’ll just share one little prompting that’ll encourage leaders. When we were starting out our first year, you know, I’m pastoring a church of 20 to 25 people, and I get this prompting. I’m reading Joshua 1:3, and it says, “I’ll give you every place you set your foot”, and I just felt this prompting, Jason, to do a prayer walk. So, I do a 4.7 mile prayer walk around Capital Hill and you know, I wasn’t praying for property. Honestly, I was just staking claim to a place that I knew God had called me to but here we are 20 years later and wouldn’t you know it; we own six properties and all of them are right on that prayer circle. That is not a coincidence. That’s providence.

Listen, it took two decades to get positioned in this way, but the bottom line is it goes back to a prompting. It goes back to a whisper and so one of the things I talk about in the book is everything was once a whisper. In fact, I’m talking to you from my office that you’ve been in right above Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse and this coffeehouse was once a whisper. I was walking by a crack house, and I felt like God said, “This crack house would make a great coffeehouse.” And so a million customers later and a million dollars in net profits given to missions-

Praise God. He’s done some incredible … but it was once a whisper and so leaders, you need to hear the whisper of God. It’s the solution to a thousand problems but it’s also the key to your destiny and if you can learn to hear that voice; listen, you’re gonna be equipped to then lead people where they actually need to go. I think promptings is a big piece of that puzzle.

Jason:

Well, again folks, this is a tremendous message and I know so many from our audience because we heard from them again, were so impacted by The Circle Maker. I would just encourage everyone to go out and pick up Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God as a follow up to that. It’s available next week, is that right Mark?

Mark:

Yes, it’s available it releases October 24 to a bookstore near you.

Jason:

Again, folks if you’re out there listening and if you want to keep up with Mark and what he’s doing; and I encourage you to do that, again National Community Church is really such an example. We did an event a couple of times a couple of years ago that many of you may be familiar with at Catalyst Next and we really wanted to partner, specifically, with them and in Washington D.C. to do that event because of their missional footprint. Because of the way that they are doing church right in such a cultural center. If you’re interested in really learning how to express the gospel in your context; they’re a great model to follow. I know Mark would tell you it’s not a blueprint, you have to do it for your context, not his, but it’d be great to just look at them and see what they’re doing.

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