Are You Moving Towards or Away? {Book Club}

I am going to make a pronouncement.

Chapters 5 and 6 from  Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk by Dr Anna E Hampton should be mandatory reading for:

  • Everyone on the field
  • Everyone who screens people to go to the field
  • Everyone in leadership or member care for those on the field

To review: everyone.

For those who have not gotten Facing Danger yet, Chapter 5 is entitled Listening for God’s Voice in the Risk Moment. She started off with hearing the Holy Spirit through seven sources:

  1. Security consultants
  2. The communities around us (local and expat)
  3. Families
  4. The Bible
  5. The Holy Spirit’s voice
  6. Those in authority over us
  7. Dreams and visions

I marked three places in “One guiding principle” and put two exclamations in my notes by page 68. “Often I see the emphasis in theology-of-risk discussions focusing on what Paul did in a variety of situations. It would be easy to tell someone that since Paul fled a situation, they should also flee. Likewise, to tell someone to remain because that is what Paul did is equally inadequate. Instead, our primary focus here needs to be on how he heard the Holy Spirit.”

From the same section, “The Holy Spirit’s leading is the one overarching guide in risk analysis and management. This is why it is so important to know how we each uniquely hear his voice and discern how he is speaking in each situation. One of the ways God matures us is that he creatively speaks to us differently in different situations and at different stages of life. He wants us to learn to pay attention and to develop the eyes of our hearts. He may even speak to our emotions.”

What I am drawn to is the way Dr. Anna keeps pointing us, not to a formula, but to God and to discernment. She also emphasizes the interior world. When it comes to discernment, are you moving towards or away from God inwardly?  On the outside, you may look like you have it all together. I understand the need in some forums, say Facebook to appear put together. But in other situations where it is appropriate to let your guard down and be honest about moving towards or away from God, are you able to? Can you let your guard down? If moving away from God inwardly, can you ask questions like the one Dr. Anna asked?

“How am I increasing or decreasing in faith, hope, and love?”

I wrote “Boom!” in my notes next to this quote: “Over-spiritualization is one of the most common tendencies of those immature in the faith or those unwilling to face their sin. Those with the spirit of pride will often blame the demonic realm instead of accepting their sinful contributions to the problem.” Again, Dr. Anna is advocating for spiritual maturity and growth of behalf of all of us.

The questions she asked in “Making Decisions in Risk When Confused” are ones to be starred and returned to when in risk. Knowing such a list exists is helpful.

Chapter six looks at spiritual maturity, building on the need for spiritual discernment in times of risk. I do not recall hearing that God’s question to Adam and Eve in the garden after they had eaten the fruit was about surprise, not location. And that He cried from the depth of His heart! “In pain he howled, ‘Where are you? Why are you hiding from me?’ He was communicating the devastating grief he felt over the separation that now existed between humans and himself.”

What did you think of her description of spiritual maturity and the movements it involves? Does your organization talk with you overtly about spiritually maturing? Or is the focus on how you are spiritually doing? The questions she asked in “diagnosing our awareness of spiritual maturity” were helpful and I have marked them as a resource.

I appreciated the distinctions she made in how people describe their spiritual journey—and for some the need to have more biblical literacy and for others more spiritual awareness. In the conclusion to six foundational components to our relationship with God, I liked: “Instead of suggesting that field workers need to ‘just have faith,’ a better question to ask is this, which of the six foundational components do you need at this time to begin cultivating a regular basis for your own faith to grow?” Yes. Just yes.

Another rich section, friends! I look forward to your thoughts, insights, and questions in the comments.


P.S. Next week chapters 7 and 8.


  1. Rachel October 23, 2017

    Wow! These two really hit me:

    “Often I see the emphasis in theology-of-risk discussions focusing on what Paul did in a variety of situations. It would be easy to tell someone that since Paul fled a situation, they should also flee. Likewise, to tell someone to remain because that is what Paul did is equally inadequate. Instead, our primary focus here needs to be on how he heard the Holy Spirit.”

    “How am I increasing or decreasing in faith, hope, and love?”

    Such good thoughts. I love the focus on developing discernment instead of following a formula. Thanks for starting this discussion, Amy!

    1. Amy Young October 24, 2017

      I need it too!! I can see why people want formulas . . . there is a certain level of comfort when it comes to a formula. But most formula will hit a point where they are inadequate which can lead to hurt and confusion when the “right” answer doesn’t come out. But Discernment and Maturity? Still can have hurt and confusion, but somehow it seems more bearable!

    2. Anna November 1, 2017

      I’ve recently heard Paul used quite a bit as a reason for leaving. I always want to say, “Hold on! You know he died a martyr. Don’t pick just that one story!” I appreciated her explanation of Paul’s life and ministry and the way he used discernment in different situations.

  2. Rachel October 24, 2017

    The emphasis in chapter 5 on God speaking to different people at different times in different ways is important. I tend to look for God to speak to me the same way he did several years ago instead of being aware of and in expectation of his multifaceted creativity.
    I need to read chapter 6 a few more things to really absorb all that about spiritual maturity. I find it convicting and it is something I very much want to work on.
    Several questions from this section will be copied into the front of my planner. From chapter 5, for making decisions:
    · What is the most loving thing to do?
    · What is the most hopeful thing to do?
    · What is the most faith-filled thing to do?
    · Are my decisions moving me toward God or away from God?
    · Am I relying on false gods of my own making?
    · What is the most strategic thing to do at this moment for the kingdom of God?
    And from chapter 6:
    Instead of “how can we be more effective?” ask “how can we increase discernment of how God is leading us?”

  3. Phyllis October 26, 2017

    I didn’t join in this reading, but now I’m wishing we had had this book a few years ago, when the fighting started here. We’re not on a team, but we have a great little community of intercultural workers, all with different goals and ministries. Every time we got together in those days, the conversation was always about, “Are you leaving?” and “How will we know if it gets to be time to leave?” Contingency plans, etc. I felt really lost in all that.

  4. Kiera October 27, 2017

    Very rich chapters. I felt like although I’m not really in a risk situation now, ch. 5 was like a debrief and processing as I remembered some of the situations we were in during the past couple of years. I appreciated that Dr. Hampton included that sometimes you just “know” that a certain course of action is the right one. I have felt this but it is hard to describe to others.

    Chapter 6 is something that applies in every context, not just risk, and I love the depth she is bringing to the “risk” discussion. Elements of this chapter reminded me of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Curious Christian. Both of those books are ones I feel like I got an initial something out of, but that I need to cycle back to, in order to get a deeper level as I consider it all again. I feel like this chapter fits into this category too. It’s been good to read it the first time, but I feel like I could cycle back to this material every year or even more often. Such a helpful re-evaluation of our own spiritual maturity and where we need to go from this point.

  5. Anna November 1, 2017

    I agree that this should be required reading. These chapters are so rich! The thing that was the most challenging to me is to focus on how I am in creating in faith, hope & love. Those are good guidelines!
    The list of different ways to hear God’s voice is really good. It can be easy to look at one thing, and react to that, but it’s more of a balancing act. I also find that for myself as well as others, that we tend to have a certain thing in mind, then we are likely to try to make the facts support that- whether that is staying or going. Getting input from others can help us make sure we are not falling into that trap. Another good point, “There is usually just enough light to take the next step.” I would really rather have the 10 year plan, or the whole life plan. Sometimes, you are can’t see where you will be tomorrow, much less next week, next month, or 5 years down the road! Just take the next step.
    The questions for discernment are some that I am going to post in my house & refer to. I do think they will help when confused by emotions, etc.

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