The third habit I want you to foster is that of listening for the Spirit’s voice. I suggest you find at least one chunk of time, preferably at the beginning of each week, to stop and create space to commune with God.

For many people, listening to the Holy Spirit is like trying to hear the radio in a busy coffee shop. You can make out the announcer’s voice, but you have to strain over the hubbub of the other patrons to make out what she’s saying. This is the same situation that exists when you try to listen to the Holy Spirit with too many people or things offering interference. Everything and everyone else must be “turned off.”

We know the Holy Spirit is our companion and the source of our strength, and for missionaries the Spirit is an indispensable source of wisdom. How are we to know how to negotiate our way through the world, eating with and blessing unbelievers, without the Spirit’s voice to guide us away from falling into sin?

When I say “falling into sin,” I don’t necessarily mean getting drunk or running off with your neighbor’s spouse (although of course we’re never immune to making such choices). I’m referring to the much less dramatic but far more prevalent sins of fear and laziness.

Fear and laziness are mission killers. Fear of persecution, fear of standing out or causing offense, fear of having to answer someone’s tricky questions —fear will shut down missional engagement every time. Likewise with laziness: I don’t mean the kind of laziness that has you lying on the couch eating Doritos and watching sports on television. I mean the inner voice that prompts you not to bother with reaching out to another person, not to bother with offering yourself in the service of others. Laziness tells you that you don’t have the time; laziness whispers to you that you need to take care of yourself first.

In fact, fear and laziness will motivate you to come up with dozens of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t open yourself to others. It is the countermanding voice of the Spirit that will help us resist our worst impulses.

My experience when engaging with my neighbors is that I must open my heart to the Holy Spirit in order to separate truth from untruth, fiction from knowledge, the honorable from the dishonorable. Figuring out how best to be an intriguing, blessing, godly presence in community isn’t easy. If I’m going to encourage you to bless others and eat with them, it would be irresponsible of me not to also encourage you to listen to the Spirit.

In his book Satisfy Your Soul, Bruce Demarest writes,

A quieted heart is our best preparation for all this work of God. . . . Meditation refocuses us from ourselves and from the world so that we reflect on God’s Word, His nature, His abilities, and His works. . . . So we prayerfully ponder, muse, and “chew” the words of Scripture. . . . The goal is simply to permit the Holy Spirit to activate the life-giving Word of God.[15]

When it comes to lifting or opening the heart to God the Holy Spirit, most people tend to do all of the talking and do not allow time for a reply. We have to learn how to listen. We must learn how to let the Holy Spirit do the prompting (talking). What we need to learn as missionaries is found not only in books but also in the Holy Spirit, who gives us the gift of knowledge to answer others’ questions and deal with the challenges they pose.

Michael Frost, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2016).

I have just completed a series of lessons based on this book. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.