THE LISTENING CHURCH, Part 1

by myvanewchurch on January 18, 2010

“Can you hear me now?”

This is the key phrase of a nationally known cell phone network, as the whole nation is painfully aware.  It was adopted by the corporation after being originated by . . . the whole nation.  It was the result of the problem people frequently had of dropped phone calls in earlier days of the cell phone industry.

Is your church stuck in an era of people wondering if they’re being heard?  It may be the source of many disappointments, disenchantments and conflicts in the church.  People who believe they are being ignored become resentful and may begin efforts to gain attention in ways that are detrimental to the health of the church.  A renewed attention to listening can bring life and unity to the fellowship, as well as attract the attention of the community for excellent reason.

A church staff that stays in tune with the church will be a more effective team in serving their church.

  • The staff with listening ears will stay in tune with the pulse of the church. It’s not only a common courtesy, it is common sense that listening to needs, concerns and frustrations of people will open the door of understanding and being better able to minister with a focus that can then bring about positive change.
  • Focused attention to their congregants will allow the ministering staff to be empathetic to the needs of the people they are called by God to serve. Identifying with the issues of others can open the door of identifying with their emotional needs.  When a hurt is shared with another, the burden of the pain is decreased significantly.  Additionally, the joy that is shared is doubled and the excitement of having a comrade in the struggles and happiness of life brings about a bond that is lasting.
  • Listening can create an awareness of the congregations’ needs that might allow the pastor to preach with relevance to the needs of the congregation. It can guide him as he plans and becomes more effective in his teaching.  Preaching and Bible study that isn’t relevant wastes people’s time and can develop resentment.  Preaching to the needs of the church can engage the attention of the listeners and touching their lives.
  • It may be that a pastor’s style might be positively affected as he listens to the people he serves. As the pastor connects with his listeners during sermons, inspiration and energy can be to his benefit, lifting is style in a mutually beneficial way.
  • When ministers are listening to church members, a unity develops.  The connection of the various parts of the body with each other can be a proactive deterrent to possible conflicts.

When the role of listener is modeled by the minister(s) at a church, the church body is more likely to follow suit.  In doing so, habits are developed that can unite the church, as opposed to allowing rifts to develop.  Some of the kinds of benefits that might be experienced can include . . .

  • . . . preaching opportunities for the pastor – Church members who are enthused by the alliance with the pastor can open the door for speaking opportunities in the community.
  • . . . shepherding opportunities for the ministering staff – Connections that are developed as people are given attention, beginning with heartfelt listening, open doors for ministry to individuals and families.  Addressing the needs of those within the congregation reinforce the bond.  Investing in those outside the church family is an ever enlarging opportunity to engage and include others.
  • . . . conflict avoidance – This can begin with the simple act of listening.  Dr. John W. Drakeford, author of, The Awesome Power of the Listening Ear, proposed that listening was the most important act of engaging and bonding with others.  When two or more people are closely connected because they feel cared for, the chance of conflict decreases significantly.

Make listening a critical point of ministry, beginning with the ministering staff and encouraged throughout the church.

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