One reason why effective movement catalysts have been able to start a movement lies hidden behind the scenes and hidden in their hearts. In my interviews and personal conversations, I have been able to uncover it: starting a movement was never their deepest desire in the first place. They actually wanted something else much more. Their deepest desire was for God. Their Hunger for God was deeper than their hunger for a movement. In this blog we will explore what effective catalysts’ Hunger for God looks like and why this is so critical. You will learn best practices for how to cultivate a deep Hunger for God in your life.
What is Hunger for God?
Batsiloh has started a nationwide movement in a country in West Africa. More than 100,000 Muslims have become Christ-followers. I have interviewed him and have had coaching conversations with him. We have also done training together, and I have been in prayer meetings led by him. I have been in his home, and we have prayed together one-on-one. What characterizes Batsiloh more than anything else is his deep Hunger for God. Batsiloh would say:
“I want GOD in my heart and life. That’s what I want.
Then I want God through my life in the lives of others.
Then I want people experiencing God to become a chain reaction.”
What I have seen in Batsiloh’s life, is what characterizes effective movement catalysts across the board. My global research into more than 170 movements has identified Hunger for God as a quality that characterizes effective catalysts. This is what Hunger for God looks like in their lives and the definition I have used in my research:
Desiring depth in relationship with God, yearning to know and love him more deeply, evidenced in extended and habitual practice of spiritual disciplines chosen for best fit.
On a 1-5 Likert scale, catalysts on average rate their Hunger for God with the high value of 4.51 – a very high rating. Their rating is clearly higher than that of other pioneers who have not started a movement. See the comparison in this table:
Table 1: Hunger for God Ratings
Hunger for God
Before we too easily dismiss this intangible reality, or quickly conclude we probably already possess a deep Hunger for God, let’s make sure we understand well its nature. We can best do this by comparing how this desire to see more of God in our lives relates to a desire to see a movement in our ministry.
Two paradigm shifts catalysts have experienced
Effective movement catalysts have gone through a radical paradigm shift in their lives: they have learned to live in their true identity as a beloved child of the Father. The alternative identity that many of them embraced previously was to see themselves primarily as God’s workers and as Christian leaders. They sought self-validation and identity in the ministry fruit they produced. They sought movement outcomes more deeply than they sought God.
This affected how they related to God. In order to produce ministry fruit, they needed God’s help. Knowing that without God they would be unable to produce fruit, they sought God in order to gain His help in producing fruit. They had the mindset: “I’m God’s worker and a kingdom leader. I need God so I’ll have a fruitful ministry.” So they sought God, but they sought Him in order to gain fruit. They sought Him for the sake of something other than God Himself. They moved toward God, but their deepest motivation was to move toward the fruit. This graphic illustrates their relationship with God.
Figure 1: Hunger for Fruit from God
We have to call this what it is: idolatry! If ministry fruit is our chief end, we make God a means to our end. We utilize Him for an end other than Himself. Such an approach violates what we were created for: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Confession). Anything we desire more than or in place of God has become an idol. Regretfully, the kingdom is full of ministers who strive for the kingdom more than for the king.
Catalysts seek God for God’s sake. Not primarily to get something from him---not even a movement.
Most effective catalysts at some point in their lives experienced a paradigm shift and a transformation. They now seek God more than anything else. And they seek God for God’s sake. No longer primarily to get something from him---not even a movement. God Himself is the chief end they seek. Knowing and loving God more deeply is the ultimate reward. And apparently, God blesses some of these sons and daughters of His, on top of that greatest reward, with a movement as well. Their relationship to God and ministry fruit can be depicted in the following way:
Figure 2: Hunger for God with Fruit as Add-On?
I don’t have hard data on this, but these spiritual realities cannot be captured empirically. Yet even without hard data, after I have listened to one story after another from effective catalysts, I cannot escape this impression: “This is a man or woman of God who is hungry for God and delights in Him. God delights in such a heart and rewards this person by giving them more of Himself. And as an add-on, a side blessing, he also gives them the privilege of a movement: “Okay, I delight in your heart so much, I will entrust to you a movement.” This person then walks closely with God, holding His hand, and God blesses their movement ministry efforts with much fruit.
This interpretation fits with John 15 where Jesus says to his disciples: “I no longer call you servants, instead I have called you friends” (v. 15). “Remain in me, as I also remain in you” (v. 4). “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love” (v. 9). “So that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (v. 11). “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (v. 5). “I have appointed you that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (v. 16).” The key concepts here are: friendship with Jesus, abiding in Him, loved by Him, loving Him back, Jesus’ delight in us, our delight in Him, and the outcome of much and lasting fruit.
Effective catalysts have truly learned to find their true identity in their relationship with the Father, as His beloved child. Exactly where Jesus Himself found His true identity: “And behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3: 17).
These catalysts have experienced a second paradigm shift in their lives. They have embraced a ministry philosophy centered around being, rather than doing:
Being with the Father
Being an example
Catalysts have embraced a ministry philosophy of being, rather than doing.
The apostle Paul lived this same ministry philosophy. When writing to his disciple Timothy, Paul describes the impact he had on Timothy through his being: “You, however, have followed (literally: imitated, emulated) my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness” (2 Timothy 3:10). He mentions his teaching, but then details the impact of his very being: “my conduct” (of life), “my aim in life” (my vision and motivation), “my faith” (how I relate to God, trusting Him), “my patience” (in everyday difficulties), “my love” (how I relate to others), “my steadfastness” (my life aligned to my deepest values).
Paul knew these equations to be true:
Ministry activities without example = zero impact
Ministry activities plus negative example = negative impact
Ministry activities plus positive example = positive impact
Best Practices from effective catalysts
Catalysts who started a movement reported on my research surveys that they have incorporated these Best Practices into their lives, and assess them to have contributed to their movement catalyzing:
Best Practice 1: Catalysts practice spiritual disciplines chosen for best fit. They have identified the spiritual disciplines that suit them uniquely and fit their spiritual temperament. They have evaluated their spiritual disciplines and discerned the ones that truly foster their Hunger for God. They major on these and may completely drop other disciplines that don’t help them toward that goal. For example, after evaluating over time which disciplines help me most to connect with God, I personally dropped Scripture memorization, although in the past I had memorized entire chapters of the Bible. I also dropped the ambition to read through the Bible in a year, and now spend an entire hour in a single chapter or paragraph, using lectio divina to absorb Scripture deeply into my heart. I also major on meditating daily on truths God has spoken to me and on contemplative prayer, connecting without words with God in my heart.
Best Practice 2: Catalysts practice their spiritual disciplines of choice habitually. Those that they major on, they have developed into habits. They have practiced them consistently over time, until they have become habits. In order to build a habit, we need to carry out a practice consistently, ideally at the same time and in the same place, over the period of 25 to 40 days depending on the practice. Once we have developed a practice into a habit, the habit becomes a force that carries us, without needing further effort. Personally, I am intentional to always develop a few new habits that I am building into my life.
Best Practice 3: They practice these spiritual disciplines for extended times. The majority of catalysts interviewed spend more than an hour and a half on average, per day, connecting with God. They schedule these disciplines as a priority in life, with times blocked out intentionally and regularly for this purpose.
Best Practice 4: Finding one’s identity as a beloved child of the Father, instead of relating to God as a route to gain a fruitful ministry.
Best Practice 5: Embracing a ministry philosophy of being, rather than doing. The emphasis in ministry is being. Even in the doing, the being plays an impactful role. Being has two expressions: one vertical and one horizontal:
Being with the Father
Being an example
A growth path to cultivate deeper Hunger for God
Here are specific steps you can take, gleaned from the lives of effective movement catalysts and my own experience:
Identify those spiritual disciplines that most stimulate a hunger for God in your life.
Develop habits for the spiritual disciplines that suit you best.
Devote (a little) more time to them than you have in the past.
Occasionally try out one spiritual discipline that you haven’t practiced much, and evaluate how helpful this discipline is for you, and whether you want to make a habit of practicing it regularly. If you want to explore spiritual disciplines to which you haven’t been exposed in your spiritual tradition, I recommend Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun (2015).
Reflect and meditate daily on your true identity as a beloved child of God.
Meditate on the “in Christ” statements in the New Testament. You can find lists on the internet, for example at www.ficm.org/about-us/who-i-am-in-christ.
Practice contemplative prayer: mere being in the loving presence of the Father.
What are my personal best practices to stimulate hunger for God?
How confident am I that the spiritual disciplines I practice regularly are the most suitable ones for my spiritual temperament, to further a hunger for God in my life?
How deeply have I established my spiritual disciplines? How could I further develop one discipline into a habit?
What spiritual disciplines do I not yet have extensive experience with? Which one that I have not tried before might I try out?
How much time do I devote to spiritual disciplines in an average day or week? What would I need to change in my life, in order to devote (a little) more time to them?
In what places have I primarily sought my identity so far?
What has helped me grow in my true identity as a beloved child of the Father? How can I make this identity more the core of my being and ministry?
How would I summarize my ministry philosophy in one sentence?
What would my ministry look like if I were primarily focused on being a living example rather than focused on always doing?
What adjustments to my lifestyle will I need to make for this to become a reality in my life?
What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear from you. What are YOUR thoughts? What is your experience? Leave a comment below! If you prefer to private message me, you can use the contact form.
Learn more about the other Catalytic Qualities besides Hunger for God in my book Movement Catalysts. You can order your copy here.
If you found this helpful, who in your network could you share it with?
Emanuel Prinz – Father’s Beloved & Movement Activist
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. 2015. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. (Rev. Ed.). Westmont: IVP.
Freedom in Christ. „Who I Am In Christ Statement Sheet.” Downloadable from: https://www.ficm.org/ministry-materials/free-resources/