"Questions and answers are by definition linked together but they are a very different skillset. Seeking answers is a process of elimination through research and experimentation, trying to piece together different information and narrow things down to a solution. But asking questions is a process of expansion through critical thinking and imagination. It is understandable why as a society we don't value the cost of asking the right questions because in some way the more questions we ask, the more work we need to do and the further away we are from finishing what we need to do. This creates a systemic problem that favours short term patches over long term solutions."
Toward Data Science - August 9, 2020
One of our guiding principles within Vineyard Canada as we seek discernment, is the reach for wisdom rather than simply finding the "right" answer. With this as a compass setter, especially as we commit to prioritizing the place of communal discernment, asking the "right" questions becomes very significant.
Like many of you, I've been reflecting on the implications of what we have been observing in what has become known as the "Asbury Outpouring."
When we encounter tangible evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in moments like this, quite often our initial default is to ask "what is the Spirit doing? What is God up to? This of course is not only a reasonable query, and may prove to be important in any kind of discernment process, but perhaps a better initial question is "why?"
The lean into "what" first, sets our attention and focuses on the mechanics of something. The way something is working, or not working. It can tend to emphasize method more than modus and as a result we can often misinterpret the heart behind something and in turn, lose the import of what is happening. This tendency can lead to attempting to reproduce the outworking of what we are seeing, rather than capturing the reason behind it all. In doing this we can miss the opportunity for contextualizing what we want to reproduce, which will result in a loss of authenticity, creativity and a type of learning that bears the fruit of growth and real change.
The reach for the "why" is marked by a sense of curiosity and learning. Jonathan Choi in his article states, "while it seems trivial, we should be asking ourselves why we are doing what we are doing every so often. It's important to keep an open mind and be honest with ourselves. A timely critical assessment of why we are doing this can help bring us back on track and focus on the right questions." It's really ok to ask God this same thing.
"Why Lord, are you doing this now?" With this people? In this place? In this way? Now the essence of what the Lord is doing can not only be discovered but responded to. We can then end up with a metanoia moment. We are able to embrace genuine repentance, avoid the trap of simply replicating something which enables us to live out of a spirit of repentance resulting in true trans-formation, imagination and liberation.
With this in mind, why Asbury?
Madison Pierce, one of the students from the Asbury Seminary, stated in a popular Facebook post, "It's interesting that God would mark this outpouring with: A tangible sense of peace for a generation with unprecedented anxiety. A restorative sense of belonging for a generation amidst an epidemic of loneliness. An authentic hope for a generation marked with depression ... A leadership emphasizing protective humility ... for a generation deeply hurt by the abuse of religious power. A focus on participatory adoration for an age of digital distraction."
Ah. With this type of reflective process before us, we can begin to discover what this means for us in our own context. Individually. Communally. Systematically. It allows us to actually break the power of idols rather than simply swap out one for another. It allows us to discover. To stretch. To incarnate.
The curious posture of the "why" will have us constantly repenting; reinventing; reimagining. Our measurements of success remain focused on the heart, character and passion allowing for the "what" to pivot, shift and change according to circumstances, need and appropriateness.
The "why" is what fuels us. Even a clear vision will lose its compelling nature when it is relegated to "what" we do without the inner fire of the "why." Dallas Willard says in his brilliant reflection, "Living in the Vision of God" that "when the original fire dies out, the associated institutions and individuals carry on for a while, increasingly concerned about success and survival, and then they either find another basis to stand upon, or they simply disappear ... There is a real point here to saying that in religious matters nothing fails like success. These types of movements touch the human heart very deeply and serve profound human needs. Because of this, they soon attract many who do not even want the fire of the founder —they do not really understand it. But they do need and like the light and the warmth it provides. Eventually, however, and without consciously intending to do so, they extinguish the very fire that provides the light and warmth, or it simply dies out from lack of being tended. Then an operation may continue under the name, trading in memorabilia. But it isn't the same operation on the inside, and truthfully its effects are not the same."
With so many tectonic shifts happening around us in all aspects of life, let's not be distracted with the "what" of all that is taking shape. May the Lord capture our attention, whether it's Asbury or not, and help us to discern the "why" behind what He is doing.
Step by step.