It Begins with Listening
Everyday upon waking, we have three questions to respond to:
Who am I? What do I have to offer? And, who is my neighbor?
When these questions are asked by followers of Jesus Christ, the answers are transformative.
As each day opens up to unimagined diversions and distractions, a guiding intention for life must be in place.
Then the curves and detours are navigated, not with dread and fear of what lay behind the next corner.
Anxiety is reduced simply because we know what we are here for. We have a purpose.
We have experienced times, though, in which the old approaches of the church fall woefully short of satisfying the apparent needs of the day. Participation in church across the country continues to decline.
Financial support for congregations and denominational agencies is flagging.
The role of the church in society has changed.
Culture has become more complex and multifaceted.
Religious and spiritual concerns of people have become more individualized and pluralistic.
Facing the challenge of making the reign of God real among our neighbors and communities has become more complicated.
Sometimes we just try to work harder doing the same things we have done before. A definition of insanity… In these experiences, joy wanes, freshness is lacking, but transformation is waiting as we hear God again.
As our calling - as we have understood it - seems less effective, we may grope to "discover" our call, our vocation.
The discovery of a calling is not like constructing a building or crafting a work of art.
But more like a child find her way home by listening to her parent’s call, closing the distance the voice become clearer.
Discovering a call, it would make sense then, begins and ends with listening to a voice.
A call is not a committee’s work to forge and wordsmith, but a people’s work of listening.
Rather than crafting a vision and mission statement, we can actually listen and receive. Listen to the voice that grants us our identity, and find out what that is calling us toward.
As we hear God calling us to engage in God’s mission, we find that we already have a mission statement.
It has come from God.
Jesus didn't speak in terms of vision and mission statements. He granted us an identity, and he told us what to do with it:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (
Jesus has granted us an identity and a purpose in life.
Growing out of our God-given identity, we come to understand who we are and what we are being called to do.
We take stock of our resources, and discover who our neighbors are.
Listening to God, to each other, and to our neighbors, we begin to hear outlines of God’s mission and our invitation to join.
Reflecting on these listening experiences transforms our understanding of our identity, our calling, and who is around us as neighbors and partners.
What IMD Can Help You Accomplish
Through a series of conversations with scripture, your congregation, and your community, we can help you begin to distill and refine what you are hearing.
We will help you listen to the word of God by dwelling in the Word.
Dwelling in the Word is a specific corporate spiritual practice of encountering scripture as a living voice speaking fresh insights to our present experiences.
We help you listen to one another in the context of listening to God’s.
This will lead to a greater sense of clarity about what God is speaking into being through the community of faith.
Then we guide you in listening to the wider community to understand the needs and hopes which surround us, but not only in order to do good things for others.
Rather, we listen to the wider community to hear what God is already engaged in beyond our activities.
And in the process, in unexpected places, we find partners in extending the grace of the kingdom of God.
As we listen, we begin to hear God’s calling for us.
Instead of ending with a written mission statement, you will continue with an awareness of the mission God is calling you toward.
As this awareness grows new forms of congregational life will be considered as God’s Spirit transforms individuals and the congregation’s structures and systems.
As you begin to live into your new identity and call, helpful resources, practices, and structures to move forward will be developed, such as:
- Staff configurations.
- Transforming conflicts to energize you to engage in God’s mission for your church.
- Charting short and long range transition plans as you move from a “maintenance” form of church life to a “missional” form can be charted.
- New ministry resourcing and fundraising
A new awareness of God’s missional calling for your congregation does not end with ideas and awareness, but lives on in new practices and structures.
And many of these behaviors and practices are going to be unique to each individual church and parish.