I led a Church evening tonight on the subject of listening to what the community is saying……………………….. Coming from the Fresh Expressions stable it introduces the concept of 360 degree listening. That is to say the idea of listening to the community around us, listening to what the Church is saying, listening to the wider world, listening to the culture, listening to God through scripture and prayer.
It’s fascinating to see people’s reaction to such an idea; why ? Because many in the Church (and Rotary and other organisations) only ever listen to the voices that suit, or the voices that do not challenge, and I include myself in that. It is very easy to seek out those with whom we agree and then denounce others who are in disagreement as being irrelevant or out of date: to decry them as not listening to our view when often we have made our minds up before hearing theirs.
And yet so often the Church is out of step with society, because we refuse to be moved from “the way we do things”. When our services are perceived as dull and boring how do we respond ? Often by saying that it is up to others to change to suit our ways. I once had a Church of 12 members who spent more time complaining about another Church half a mile away who had demolished their 200 seater premises because they weren`t big enough, than
they ever did on asking why we weren`t attractive to people !!
This is why I like the concept of 360 degree listening: because it reminds us that we need to keep our eyes on the culture we’re called to serve (Paul and the message about the unknown God in Athens comes to mind), and also to see what God is doing within the culture. We`re also called to keep our ears tuned into both the culture and God to hear peoples cries and needs and also to hear the direction God is leading us in. We cannot simply go our own blind way seeking to perpetuate that which keeps us happy and comfortable, but we must be open to the voice of God and we must learn to seek out what he`s doing in the world. The whole concept of the Fresh Expressions movement encourages this through 360 degree listening and it’s absolutely amazing what has come out of it.
Tonight, at the Church where we held the meeting using a large map of the village and placing dots to represent things it was amazing how many times people who had lived in that village all their lives kept saying “I didn`t know that” or “I never realised there was so much……………………….” Maybe in order to take this further we all should stop periodically in our busyness, pause to reflect where our society is at and is going, where we are personally, and ask for Gods direction in our lives and in our relationships: BUT we must then listen to what God is saying to us, for if we don`t listen to Him then it is all pointless.
Maybe there is a good Lenten discipline here: hang on !! isn`t that what Lent is all about anyway ? If so are you and I engaged in listening this Lent ?