There is something missing. There has to be. Because everything is in place—a strong sermon series, small groups, discipleship and leadership development pathways—but it all lacks… something. 

You know something is missing because its all just stuck. There is no forward motion or growth. Relationships are superficial. People are going through the motions but they aren’t being transformed. 

What’s Missing

The key ingredient to transformational ministry is the Holy Spirit. Well, of course it is! I’m not telling you anything new. But what I can tell you is that you can help your people grow in discerning the voice of God and stepping out into obedience.

You can help your people learn to maintain a posture of listening and responding to the Holy Spirit. There is no greater resource than the Holy Spirit for breathing life into your ministry.

Discerning the Spirit 101

what's missing

The tricky part of communicating with God is that there is no well worn path. God, in all grace, meets each of us where we are at and communicates with us in unique ways. But there are learning principles that apply to everyone when it comes to discerning the Spirit. 

1. Make space

As amazing as it would be, most people don’t hear an audible voice from God. Sometimes people get a picture—they can almost see it in their mind. Other times people are reading scripture and a thought comes to their spirit—they have a sense about something. Sometimes people get a particular physical sensation—a prickle when they hear someone speaking. It could also be a persistent thought that surfaces when praying.

To discover how God is speaking to them the first step is to make space to practice, to pay attention and be open to God.

2. Check it out

Once you have attuned to the manner with which the Holy Spirit talks with you it’s time to look for confirmation. The key here is to proceed with humility

There are several sources to look to for confirmation. The first is to make sure what you are discerning is consistent with God’s character and scriptural principles. The next place to go is your faith community, asking a trusted friend or leader for their perspective.

3. Walk it out 

Once you have confirmation, it’s time to respond by stepping out in faith. Holding it loosely, and with the guidance of the Spirit, take initial steps to act on it. See what happens.

Gently test it and see what the results are. You might sense that someone needs a word of encouragement. Reach out. If they respond with something like, “Wow – I was just discouraged…” you can be confident that the word came from the Holy Spirit! You can learn to discern God’s work through your experience.

The Thing About Faith

Know that we can’t see the whole story. Just as Philip never knew the whole story of what happened to the Ethiopian man he met (Acts 8:26-40), neither do we get to know the whole story.

Sometimes you may wake up in the night with a prompting to pray for someone. And you never know why or what happened. We need to hold “results” loosely and step forward in obedience as far as we can, even if we never see the full picture.

What you can be confident in is that God is at work and you can play a part in that. Henry Blackaby summed it up well when he said, “Find out where God is at and join him there.” 


Guide for Discipling– Systematic approaches to discipleship can fail to meet people where they are at and force them to try and grow at the pace of the curricula. Discipleship that works is nonlinear but that doesn’t mean it lacks focus. 

The Guide for Discipling covers 8 areas that Christ guided the twelve disciples in transformation. Begin with the foundations: Experiencing God and Partnering with the Holy Spirit. From there it’s a choose your own adventure to maximize joining God in what he is already doing in the person. 

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash