Vol 1:26 Listening for the Spirit

These are continuing reflections on Roxburgh and Boren’s Introducing the Missional Church (Baker, 2009).

In focusing on moving back into the neighborhood (MBiN), one of the key insights that the authors share is that we need to “stop to listen” (p. 86). Unless we “stop to listen” our ears, eyes and hearts will be filled with our own agendas and we will miss out what is going on around us and noticing what the Spirit is up to in peoples’ lives.

Roxburgh and Boren express the importance of “stop to listen” as follows:

“One of the first things a missionary to our own culture does is stop to listen to and enter into the stories of the people in order to understand how the culture actually functions. He or she reads books, listens to and watches the local media, as well as looks at trends, priorities, and so forth. But to be perfectly honest, the real work involves sitting with people, listening to their stories, and entering their world with an open mind and heart – not bringing predetermined decisions and goals to the table. If we come to sit with them in this way, we replicate what John describes in his Gospel: Jesus came to pitch his tent beside ours (John 1:14). When we do this, we will be able to hear what is happening and discern what the Spirit is up to; we will read people through God’s lenses and see what he want to turn these people into” (p. 86).

This addresses how we are to be in the world as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ – in reality it is not about us. In one of the courses I teach, after a number of weeks, a student raised her hand and asked, “let me see if I got this right – it’s not about us – is that right?” She got it – and so must we if we are to participate with God in God’s redemptive mission.

If we make it about us, our focus is upon ourselves, our needs, “what am I to get out of this?” – our ears and eyes are attuned to our agendas and needs. Yes, we are people who have needs, but I have discovered that the best way to be the people of God caring for one another is not through focusing upon ourselves, but by attuning ourselves to what the Spirit is saying and doing amongst us and all around us. It is in living our lives in partnership with God and God’s mission that we begin to sense how the power of God flows into us and through us as we are incarnational amongst those with whom God is seeking to connect. It is amazing how such an outward , stopping to listen outlook refocuses how I think about my needs and my agenda.

We are a people called and set apart to participate with Christ Jesus in being incarnational in the world – to pitch our tent besides others in order to discover not only what the Spirit is up to, but how we can be a part of what the Spirit is up to. In this way, the creativity is the Spirit’s as we discover new ministry opportunities and possibilities because as we stop to listen to the stories and lives of people we will become more than aware of how the Spirit is leading us to respond. This is how true ministry develops.

I am discovering that this is the best way and only way for living out my discipleship. I wish I had learned to live in this way 20 or 30 years ago. I do not want to live in any other way but to be open to where the Spirit of God leads as I attune myself to what the Spirit is saying and doing by stopping to listen to the people I have been placed among. And as I attune myself to the actions of the Spirit I am discovering that I am growing spiritually, becoming more and more like Christ. All I can say is Praise God!

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl