“I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate, or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.” — Margaret J. Wheatley, from MINEmergent
Excited because our church is in a state of transition and growth after a period of . . . what can I say? Misunderstanding? Mixed messages? Confusion (for some)? Disenchantment (for some)? Fear?
The church has, at the initiative of the eldership, taken a new path where listening to the stories of the people and wanting to hear their goals and dreams for their community is taking a prominent position.
I attended a forum on the weekend where congregants were invited to speak freely to the elders and the pastoral search team about what they perceived as the greatest characteristics of a pastor. I was blessed to hear so many putting voice to their dreams, needs, and desires for our church family. Truly it was a moment when honest communication and expression prevailed.
I have, in the past, been quite forthcoming with my criticism of the church leadership. While it may not have been wise to post such misgivings in a public forum, the pointed posts were a result of a built-up frustration at the direction it seemed the church was taking at the time. To anyone I hurt by those posts, I apologise. Hurt was not my intent. Bringing people to an awareness of another perspective was the reason why I felt it necessary to say these things.
I have since removed several posts from this blog.
The truth is, many people go through life every day and they don’t feel valued or needed. They are pushed aside—not, perhaps, physically, but emotionally, intellectually, even spiritually. They hear the message loud and clear, “What you have to say is of no importance,” or, “Since your story doesn’t line up with what we consider correct understanding, it is of no worth here.” These words, though unspoken, are conveyed in the equivalent of the highest roar of decibels by our actions: rolled eyes, inattention to the conversation, a refusal to engage, a disinterested look, physical avoidance, and statements made to others in the community.
I’m excited to see that attitude is changing.
Because at the heart of the good news of Jesus is the premise that all people are of value and their stories are important.
In Jesus, God not only revealed his eternal story of redemption and restoration, but he stepped into the stories of millions of earth-dwellers . . . the sad stories of lost hopes, the angry stories of revenge and retribution, the painful stories of loss and rejection. Jesus spoke into those stories of a love that never dies, of a healing stream of forgiveness that flows freely, and of a way of life where stories are not ignored, devalued or laughed at, but are remembered, retold in a new context of God’s grace, and redeemed.
And that makes me hopeful that our collective story will continue to be told and retold with echoes of God’s forgiveness, grace, never-ending faithfulness and deep, deep love.
This will happen. But it depends on us being active participants on God’s story and offering a listening ear—attentive, inviting and accepting—to those around us. And as we listen, we respond as God has to our own story—not with judgement, condemnation and wrath, but with love, grace and forgiveness.
And as we listen, we change our world.