As a kid, Tania Harris never really thought about what she’d do when she grew up. She understood that her destiny was to get married, have children, and be the kind of housewife she saw all around her. She never imagined anything like becoming one of Australia’s foremost Christian thought leaders, and the founder of the global God Conversations ministry.
She got an education degree and worked as a sports teacher, but one afternoon on the football field, she found herself wondering if this was really how the rest of her life would go. “I prayed a prayer at that time, and over the following year, God spoke to me, that I would be in ministry.”
Talking to Vision’s Karen Hunt, Tania explained that in her denomination, she’d never encountered any women in leadership positions. “In fact, we weren’t allowed to be,” she said. “We were the ones who were in the kitchen, helping out, staying at home. And so I didn’t have any idea what God meant, as is often the case when He speaks to us.”
At 21, Tania moved from her sombre, conservative church to a larger one, where worship was much more exuberant. Not long after, she was shocked when a female minister arrived. “I couldn’t work her out. She was bold and strong and confident and feminine, but I’d never seen someone lead before.”
With that idea placed in her mind, God soon asked her to plant a Church in Melbourne. “I thought that would mean that any moment now, my husband was going to come along. Because I didn’t know of anyone in Australia who was pastoring, or was starting a new church as a single woman.”
The church was in St Kilda, Melbourne’s red-light district, and she had no finances or networks to draw on. “I can’t do this God,” she said. “I don’t have all the basics, and I don’t have the support. Every other pastor I know is male, is married, and has two kids. And I’m not that person. You need to call somebody else.”
But to her horror, God insisted that she do as he’d asked. “And I think that’s when I learnt a lot more about myself. I think sometimes women have taken a back seat, and they haven’t really pressed the boundaries of who they are as people, because they’ve let someone else do it. We hang back. We’re not so sure. We’re fearful sometimes. And so for me, that was certainly discovering who I was.”
Tania knows that if she’d not been encouraged by God, she’d never have become a pastor, let alone gone on to be the Dean of Hillsong Academic College in Sydney. Through that process, Tania also discovered a lot about who God was, and what he sounded like.
Her God Conversations ministry, which has encompassed books, courses and speaking engagements, and even a radio show on Vision, aims to help other people learn how to become their best selves by listening to God’s plans for them. “Over the years, God taught me very clearly how He spoke, and my life has been a product of His Word. So I’m very passionate about helping other people develop that kind of relationship with him.”
For Tania, the first thing to realise if you want to hear God is that he wants to speak to you. In Acts 2:17, Peter explained how God’s voice, which had been heard by a chosen few, would now reach the whole Church. “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams”. (Acts 2:17 NIV) “These forms of communication were the ones that God used with the Old Testament prophets,” Tania said, “and now they’re available for us.”
When she realised this, Tania simply asked God to talk to her. “That was all I did. I just said ‘God, I want you to speak. I’m listening’. And from that point on he started to speak, and in ways I did not expect, in ways that were clear, in ways that caused me to respond and live a life of faith.”
Tania spoke more about how her spiritual journey inspired God Conversations, as well as the challenges of being a single woman in the Church, and what she looked for in a husband. For all that and more, listen to her chat with Karen Hunt below, as part of Vision’s The Story podcast.
Tune into The Story on Vision for true testimonies from extraordinary people. Click here for your local times.