Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.
And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:9 (NIV)
Listening is much more than a matter of hearing sound. Listening well is tough work. To listen really well is a matter of hearing the sound first then embracing the heart of the message conveyed.
Listening to one another, especially in difficult conversations is most effective when we hear the words and feel with empathy the meaning behind the words. I'm appreciative of the listening technique I was taught in which the listener waits for her/his turn to respond and says to the speaker, "I hear you saying… and I want to repeat it in my own words."
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
Jeremiah 29:12 (NIV)
The most challenging conversation a congregation can enter into with the unchurched is a conversation in which church people say, "I hear and feel your voice. I see you and want us to be one in Christ. In Christ we can overcome difference." Friends, let's go deeper in this thought. Can you envision a conversation with the immigrants in your community to hear their struggles? Can you envision a conversation with political opponents to decrease the current political divide? Can you envision a conversation that helps your congregation become more racially diverse?
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14 (NIV)
Friends, in Christ's name, we've got to do more listening to one another! We've got to heal our UMC. We've got to heal our communities and our nation! God expects it of us and has given us the spiritual tools to do it. And it all begins with heartfelt and spiritual listening.
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:1-2 (NIV)