Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because Christians are talking when they should be listening. He who no longer listens to his brother will soon no longer be listening to God either.”
There are Sunday services, home groups, youth groups, children’s groups, senior groups … the list goes on. We know that the church should be active, so year after year we churches organise these ‘tried and tested’ things, perhaps in the belief that if only we run enough programmes we will accomplish God’s mission on earth.
From reading the book of Mark, it is certainly clear that Jesus did not waste a moment. He was a man of action. In the first chapter alone, Mark uses the Greek word ‘euthus’ which means ‘immediately’ or ‘at once’ 11 times (it’s used 42 times in the whole gospel). Jesus goes straight from doing one thing to the next, proclaiming the gospel to all. Despite knowing this, we all too often forget how Jesus also listened to others, giving them his undivided attention. What he did was centred on building relationships. In John 4 Jesus risks his respectability in society by sitting with an outcast, listening to her life’s story. And in the story known as ‘the woman at the well’ Jesus engages in conversation with a woman. He begins by hearing about her religious ideas, then the reality of broken relationship after broken relationship in her life, saying very little himself other than asking questions to encourage her to talk more about her hurts, fears and daily struggles. As a result of his genuine care, her life is forever changed, and she just has to tell everyone else in her community about him.
During November, we as a church have been assessing our listening skills and reflecting on how we listen to the local community by asking one simple question: ‘What hurts most?’ We want to know what daily issues our neighbours, those on nearby roads to the church and close friends, are facing? The reason for doing this is not so that we can offer more programmes, but to help us rethink how we are using the resources we have in terms of time, money etc. and then take action to better serve our community. As William Tyndale put it: “The Church is the one institution that exists for those outside it.” We cannot be an outward-looking community if what we run is primarily for ourselves, and our friendships are mostly with those who already know Jesus.
It is always good to know what’s going to be happening in the life of Croham in the future. It’s good to plan ahead but, as Bonhoeffer said, in order to listen to God’s will, we need to listen to what he is asking us to do, and we can only do this if we listen to the hurts and issues facing the community he has put us in to serve. What we do in 2017 as a church is not up to us, it’s up to God, and God will reveal it to us as we listen. So… are we listening to the professional who spends most of his/her life working; the young couple struggling to juggle the many pressures of daily life; the individual who has a hundred questions to ask about life, what it’s all about, but no one to talk to; and the lonely person who has no friends or family nearby? As was shared at a recent half night of prayer at the church, we need to ‘listen and be amazed’.
To find out more about the ‘Who Cares’ initiative please visit the website:
Tim Allen (Community Pastor)