This is the third in a five-part series on where God is calling me next. The first post can be found here.
Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. – James 1:19 (CEB)
Over the last few years, I have been drawn to the importance of listening to one another. This seems self evident, but yet we don’t really seem to do it that often. I also believe that we, as a society, have largely lost these skills. During my student chaplaincy at Alexian Village in Milwaukee, during a class on the Bible and Immigration where we spent time hearing stories from both ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and documented and undocumented immigrants, while receiving Mediation Skills Training with the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, and during my trip to Israel where we spoke with Israelis and Palestinians, I am convinced that we need to listen to one another’s stories.
In each of these experiences, I was able to begin seeing people for who they were rather than what they appeared to be. Sometimes what I thought I knew was confirmed, but most of the time it was enhanced (and often I was surprised!). My understanding of the “other” became more intimate. My understanding and experience of God is deeper and broader.
The first strand of the DNA of this new worshipping community is Word and dialogue. While our identity is still being formed, my hope is that it will look something like this:
We seek to be a Community in dialogue with one another. The world is quick to argue and persuade. We desire to be a Community who listens and shares. We recognize that the quality of our conversations with one another can only be as deep and honest as our relationships. Because our sense of self, our Community with one another, and our interactions in the world grow out of our relationship with Jesus Christ, our conversations should always have the sweet fragrance of Christ. This means:
- We strive to be a healthy Community that can be honest about our differences, engage in healthy decision-making, and clarify roles and expectations.
- We interpret Scripture – understanding and praxis – as a community.
- We discern God’s call on the Community in community.
- We are open to doubts and questions.
As the Church, we are called to look and act differently than the world. One significant way is by learning and engaging in true dialogue, rooted in God’s Word.
How are we going to do this?
Well, we’re going to need to work at it. We’re going to learn new skills in listening and speaking with one another. We will read Scripture together and discuss what it means for our lives today. It may mean we spend more time asking questions than stating answers. It will also mean that we all commit to engaging with Scripture and one another. There are not seats on the sidelines.
And I also think we’re going to need to pray. A lot. More on that next time.
What do you think?
Is it possible for the Church to look different than the world in how we discuss our differences? How do you think dialogue plays a part in the Church and the mission God has given us in the world?
Romans 6:2-5, 12:9-10; 1 Corinthians 3:11
Acts 15:1-35; Acts 17:11
Mark 9:22-24; Matthew 28:17