Learning to Listen....Again

We live in a culture that likes to be heard. And our society has forgotten how to listen. These two tendencies are very much at odds with each other. So we end up with a community where lots of people are talking and no one is really listening. Or even worse, we have a bunch of individuals talking about stuff that no one’s interested in.

I have found that in ministry settings this can be especially true. The great danger is that we are missing the connection points with the people we are trying to serve in our particular ministry.

In urban ministry, I think this is a rather common occurrence. The person trying to teach doesn’t connect with the participants because they have forgotten how to listen. This may be the result of a false paradigm where the leader sees the ones they are teaching as “broken” and in need of being “fixed” rather then as fellow sinners on a common path of redemption. We do our ministries well to actively seek out questions and to create an environment where people can explore their thoughts verbally in a community that offers safety and a desire to learn together.

So what does this mean for a faith venture like Bud’s Warehouse? It involves making a concerted effort to listen and involve others in the common journey in Jesus’ grace. Our Bible study times are less about a teacher instructing others and more about the community learning together. It’s about the leader asking questions and then listening, really listening. It’s about answering questions with questions. It’s about guiding the discussion toward the truth verses declaring the truth without involving everyone else in the journey.

I have found Young Life’s Serendipity New Testament for Groups to be a wise guide towards encouraging this type of discussion in an urban setting. This Bible breaks up the New Testament into sections and then provides opening questions to get the discussion started, questions to dig deeper into the text and then points for further reflection. Serendipity is a great starting point for learning the rhythms of engaging a group into a true community Bible study. I have found that very quickly issues of interest to the group rise to the top and provide great teaching moments. That is as long as I can keep my mouth shut and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through the group.

I remember it was a great moment in my life when a mentor told me that ministry is more about listening then speaking. As men, we want to fix things. That is the approach we most naturally take. It is far better to listen, to only speak when it is really necessary and to allow God and the Holy Spirit the chance to heal and redeem.


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