And he [Jesus] said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Pastor Andrew Wrasman of Oak Road Lutheran Church in Lilburn, Georgia and I met with some Ethiopian leaders who are interested in joining the congregation in worship on Sunday morning and also conducting a service in Amharic, their heart language. There is currently an Ethiopian congregation meeting at Oak Road and Pastor Wrasman and I thought they might join forces to work together.
There were eight of us in the room for the conversation and I shared what Pastor Wrasman and I were thinking. Then Pastor Wrasman and I opened our ears to hear what they were thinking and their vision for ministry. They shared a vision for mission as do all faithful Christian and yet they differed in the view of how they would pursue their vision. Pastor Wrasman and I decided to let them decide how they wanted to pursue their vision, what their needs are, and considered our task as helping the congregation discern whether Oak Road would be able to meet their needs.
We listened! We did not try to tell them what they needed. We listened! We did not try to put limitations on their vision or make them adjust their vision to our viewpoint. We listened! We did not try to make them decide to conform to our notion of what is best as if we had more knowledge of their need than they do. We listened.
I have observed a number of mission starts that do not thrive because the leader does not listen to those who are being served. One mission decided that their neighbors needed a food ministry, so they went out and purchased rice, peas, and fresh vegetables. There were plenty of ministries offering food to the neighborhood and the neighbors told them as much. What they really needed was transportation to government and doctor offices. They would also have appreciated English language lessons. Nope. You need food, so food was purchased and some of it found its way to the trash and spoiled before being eaten. Leaders listen and take counsel from those they are attempting to serve.
We still do not know what will ultimately come of this. We do not know, but our God knows. We do know what will not come of this. The children of God we are trying to serve will not leave feeling like their view was not important and respected by the people of God. They will not feel disregarded and resentful because we gave them what we wanted them to have instead of what they need. They will know that they matter, that their opinion matters, and that God loves them and has provided for them, if not a space at least a listening ear and authentic Christian friends who will walk with them.
Lord, bless our REV7:9 leaders with external igniters to whom they will listen with humility, compassion, patience, and the love of Christ. Grant them wisdom to serve You and their neighbors well and achieve Your vision of that great, diverse, multitude that cannot be numbered. Amen.