Listening Together

Dear Church,

One of the things they don’t tell you in seminary is that as a pastor, you’ll be attending a lot of classis meetings.  Oh I get it.  I know why they don’t.  Think about being in a room with a large group of pastors and elders for three plus hours.  Let’s just say there are a lot of sermons being preached!  However, one of the lines in an ordination service of a Minister of the Word & Sacrament in the RCA is that we promise to be a faithful member of the Reformed Church in America.  Part of that faithfulness is participating in classis meetings.  In fact, the 2017 General Synod issued a request for a dialogue within the classis concerning our future together.  It is a call for ministers and elders who took covenant oaths in the RCA.  To do this, a discussion program was created titled “Listening Together, a discussion on a biblical covenant for the Reformed Church in America.”

So, that’s how I spent my Thursday.  Listening together.  Whether it’s in the church or at home, or at work, or at school - listening together seems to be something we all could do a little better job of, don’t you think?  We’re not really good at listening.  Some of us might be good at hearing, but I’m not so sure about listening.  We’re pretty good at being silent while someone else talks, but all the while having something on the tip of our tongue ready for rebuttal.  We’re pretty good at nodding our heads but thinking about something completely different than what is actually being said.  We’re pretty good at hearing words and sentences while multi-tasking in such a way to defend our position and prove we are right.  That’s not really listening.

Maybe listening is so hard because it requires time and we don’t want to give it time.  Maybe it’s hard because it requires that we slow down, drop the agendas, forget who is “right,” and just be present.  Maybe it’s hard because it requires that we might not know it all and could, in fact, actually learn from someone else.  Maybe it’s hard because it requires that we just might experience some form of tension.  Maybe it’s hard because our lives might actually change as a result of what someone says or something we experience.

I know that I could be a better listener.  I know I could slow down and be present a little more.  I know I could learn a lot from others’ opinions and perspectives.  Perhaps you can relate.  My guess is that there is someone in your life (just like I have someone in my life) with whom we do a lot of talking.  A spouse, a sibling, a child.  I would encourage you this week to sit down and ask them, “How am I doing at listening to you?”  Seriously, sit down and ask them, “How am I doing at listening to you?”  Don’t get defensive.  Just be open to what the person honestly says.  A lot of times we say we want feedback, just as long as that feedback is positive!  Ask them how they think you’re doing, not how you think you’re doing, but how they perceive you to be doing at listening to them.

We live in a world filled with noise.  People clamoring to be heard.  Everyone vying for the last word.  It seems like there is so little room for people who are willing to listen.  I think being a follower of Jesus demands that we listen.  Listen to each other.  Listen to the Word of God.  Listen to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe the best way we can foster the skills needed to improve our listening is through prayer.  Rather than rattling off what we need or what we’d like God to do, prayer is listening to God speaking to us.  So, what might God be speaking to you today?  Are you listening well enough to hear it?

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Matt

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