Thursday, December 06, 2007

Is Anyone Listening?

In a breakfast conversation with a friend, we talked about the challenge of listening; really listening. So often in my feeble attempt to listen, the person speaking to me sparks a thought in my head that triggers and incontrollable tangential thought that I HAVE to share and I jump in, stop listening and start talking. Pretty soon I'm not listening at all, but speaking passionately about this new topic of interest to me. That's a huge challenge for me; to really listen. As we talked about emerging ministries and trends in the church, we observed how difficult it is for institutional leaders to listen, especially when they are being critiqued.
I really like to listen to you when you say nice things about me. I like it when you compliment me about my brilliant new idea or excellent pastoral leadership. I listen to you when you tell me how wonderfully I met your needs. I listen to you when you agree with my ideas and programs. But when you have concerns with the way I pastor, preach, lead or worship, it's much tougher to listen. When you suggest something new for me to consider that is not a part of my agenda, but, in truth, an interruption to my life, it's really hard to listen.
But note how well God listens. Note how well Jesus listens. Look at all the questions God asks in the Bible and waits, and listens. God models listening for us (think of Job as a great case study in God's listening).
How well does the church listen? How well does the local parish listen to its members? How well do I, as a pastor, listen to the church staff, members, newcomers, college students here for a season, really, really needy people? How well do church officials listen? How well do institutional leaders listen? I think the Covenant Church could really grow in this arena (but so could I!) When I hear of institutions creating departments of church-relations, I wonder: will they listen, or just promote? Do they want to hear what's happening and not happening? We'll see.


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