The parable of the sower is about seeds, and soils. Many focus one of these two themes. What’s interesting is that the parable itself is book-ended by these words,”Let anyone with ears to hear, listen.” Mark 4. Why? Why do you think Jesus’ first parable in the gospel of Mark gives listening such priority?
For congregations, the first good work is listening, listening to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is here where the church sprouts forth with its given life and purpose. It’s purpose in learning to bear with one another as Christ has, and continuously so, with us.
Living Local begins with listening as a central and forming practice. Within it exists a host of wisdom and possibility for being formed as a new creation, and a fresh community life where strangers become friends, and partners for the renewal of communities and neighborhoods. This is because listening forms us not only in our trust for how God is meeting us in the world, but also in ways we extend generous love with the world. Listening is key. It is leadership that is first understood as followership, aka discipleship.
The following quotes, and authors describe the power and promise of listening:
“I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate, or public meeting. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, adn we each listen well. What would it feel like to be listening to each other again about what disturbs and troubles us? About what gives us energy and hope? About our yearnings, our fears, our prayers, our children?”
–Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, Margaret Wheatley
“Generous listening at its best (is) an unselfish openness to waht the other is offering and a willingness to help others be as brilliant as possible. Being generous is not the same as simply being uncritical. In jazz as in any other endeavor, people get stuck in phrases and modes. Not everyone has to suffer until he or she finds a way through. But generous listening does mean being acutely aware of where the ohter is heading–of someone else’s sense of future possibilities. There’s a selfless suspension of ego in these moments when you make the other primary and seek to further his or her contributions.”
–Yes to the Mess: Suprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz, Frank Barrett
“The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word, but also lends us God’s ear. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. The death of the spiritual life starts here, and in the end there is nothing left but empty spiritual chatter and clerical condescension which chokes on pious words. Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it. Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only for themselves and for their own words and plans.”
–Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer