My ministry buddy Jim used to say (fact is, this was his mantra if you can say that in church circles), "people will never care about what you know until they know that you care". That's proven true in numerous circumstances, situations, places and relationships in my life. For many of us attempting to live the "missio dei" (mission of God) on a daily basis, that becomes more of our operational "calling" than anything else…loving others as God has loved us…caring for people, asking about their day, looking into the lives with passion and concern no matter who they are and where they intersect with us…for me at least, this is just who I am and what I do. It isn't even conscious anymore…it is a lifestyle.
Yet within many church circles, barriers exist in relationships. I have many theories about how, where and why that occurs most of which I'll choose to ignore in this post. Let's just say within this context that it is time to give more of an "ear" to people within our faith communities than anything else. It is past time that we dedicate ourselves to listening to each other instead of being prepared to lecture, exhort, challenge, or state our "God-ordained" position. One of the comments I hear from people NOT involved in a community of faith (of any brand or flavor) is that the "church is full of condemning people who really don't care about me and my concerns". I've heard that more times than I can count…but what is JUST AS DISCONCERTING is that I hear that from church people too. Many church members really don't enter into deeper relationships with other followers of Jesus for the specific reason that they "feel" or perceive that they would be verbally shot at, condemned, judged or ignored. Remember, one of the greatest gifts you and I can give to anyone we care about is the gift of listening…the old cliche rings true that God gave us only one mouth and two ears for a specific reason – listening is at least twice as important and critical in relationship than talking.
So, in trying to live this out in my NEW faith community (Peace in Monroe, Washington – sunny Monroe I might add), I am embarking on a Listening Tour (hence the logo above, designed by my FUTURE son-in-law, Kelly Knopp). Below is what I wrote to the congregation about my intent – now, this is not new in any manner…the idea of visiting members of a church when you arrive in a new ministry setting is a time-honored tradition for many of us clergy types…rather the issue is intent…and listening is my intentional objective. I'm not going to debate, argue, urge, taunt or prove myself. Rather, my goal is to listen…to life, to dreams, to giftedness, to passions, to struggles…if I get something that we can apply to our ministry setting @ Peace, fine. But the main goal is to let people know that someone cares…I'll let the fruit and results of that effort be in the Spirit's capable oversight. So, the Tour begins today…more to come!
"Beginning in October, Pastor Robin is beginning a LISTENING TOUR of the membership of Peace. As Robin stated recently, “hey, pastors are known mostly for their talking…most people usually listen to their pastor…how about if we started out our new life as partners in ministry at Peace by having the pastor actually LISTEN to everybody about what they think of life and ministry in Monroe?” So begins Pastor Robin’s listening tour! Robin’s hope is to get to every household in our congregation…to listen to people and their perceptions, hopes and dreams of ministry @ Peace…to listen to how God is enabling each person to grow in the Lord…to listen to concerns and opinions…in other words, to listen! Coming soon to your very own home, the Listening Tour! Merlaine or Pastor Robin will be contacting you soon!"