In the first part of this two-poster, I urged well-established Christians to keep listening to God’s word.
Part one is the real meat of this mini-series. So if you only have enough mental space for one blog idea today, ignore this second post.
(There’s a bit of danger in part two: if it’s cut free from listening closely to the Bible, what is written below could become an excuse for ignoring God. You can ask me more about that, if you like.)
Those who have been Christians for some time become involved in many ministries. They lead Bible study groups, teach Sunday School, visit people in homes, preach, talk to the grieving, pray for friends, follow-up newcomers to church, … Some people are employed to to these things, many aren’t.
We heard God’s word about Jesus, so we press on as servants of Jesus.
We can, however, become so good at our ministries that we stop listening. We have a answer to trot out. We easily identify the emotions someone is experiencing. We know the theological category that ‘fits’ the problem. And so we speak, without listening.
- When youth group member raises predestination, we shoot out a pat answer (instead of asking, ‘Why do you think this is important?’)
- When the parent speaks of tiredness, we think first of their poor techniques in keeping discipline (instead of asking how fatigue affects them)
- When a friend starts to explain how they are, we finish their sentences
Often our impulse is right – we do have relevant experience, or helpful knowledge. But by not listening we mess up the opportunity to help. We come across as know-alls, rather than as help-alls. We look strong on knowledge but weak on wisdom.
Of course, ministry situations are always routine. There’s nothing new under the sun: the call to repentance and faith, struggling with deep ideas about God, striving to obey God in hard places, despair at continuing sin … they’ve all happened before.
But when a person shares with us their situation, it’s not routine at all – it’s personal. So let’s honour the privilege of hearing by actually listening.