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In the past few years, I’ve noticed a common theme in the presentations and books of church leadership gurus like Leonard Sweet and Alan Roxburgh, often echoed in the preaching and writing of denominational leaders and church pastors. Some speak as if it is a new idea, but Henry Blackaby was talking about it more than 30 years ago, long before the word “missional” became popular.

For some folks, the new mantra serves as a definition of the term “missional,” and it goes like this: “the missional church finds out what God is doing in the world, and gets on board.” Or, church leaders should seek to “see what Jesus is up to, and join him.”

I get the concept, and I certainly don’t intend to criticize it. It seems that I’m always left hanging with the same question, however: just how does one determine where God is at work, or what Jesus is up to? Do we look for concrete evidence, a spiritual intuition, or a subjective sense of divine activity?

I’ve heard some folks speak as if widespread revival or responsiveness to the gospel is a sign of God’s work, suggesting that church efforts should be focused where evangelistic results are greatest.

I’ve heard some speak of apparently miraculous events as indicators of Jesus being at work in a particular area, ministry, or project.

Others seem to see Jesus at work in broad social or cultural trends, while yet others talk more about focusing on how God is working in the lives of individuals.

Whatever approach we take, it seems to me that a lot of subjectivity is involved, and what one might see as a sign of God at work might appear to another as a caution sign. For me, it also raises the troubling question of whether we’re implying that God is at work in some places while neglecting others, sort of a contemporary notion of selective election.

Do you consciously seek to determine “what God is doing” or “what Jesus is up to” in your community? If so, what criteria guides your thinking? I’d be interested in hearing from you, and I suspect other readers would, too.

Where do you see God at work — and why do you say so?

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