As Christians, especially evangelicals (clue in the name), we are very keen to tell our stories, to have people listen to what we have to say. This article on the Sojourners website by Cindy Brandt, turns this desire on its head and reminds us that in many instances – if not all – we need to be people who listen. Why? Because everyone wants to be heard, to know that someone is interested in them and isn’t waiting for them to take a breath so they can jump in with their story. Then maybe we earn the right to be heard. I think this is why urban mission is about patience, humility and relationship, receiving at least as much as giving, and therefore long-term: taking as long as it takes.
Here are a couple of excerpts, but please read the full article – it is not anti-the Great Commission.
“The biggest problem I have with evangelizing is that you enter into a relationship with a prescribed intention, and that stands in the way of listening well. You can’t listen well when you are carrying an agenda. You can’t listen well when you are searching for what is broken in your conversation partner, in order to introduce the solution.
“On the other hand, if you are wanting to be evangelized, you learn to listen deeper, because you are trying to uncover truth. You search for the beauty in your neighbor to find points of connection — you are seeking to be saved by them. You become the student, longing to learn from, instead of preach at. You voluntarily place yourself in the inferior position of need and find that your own vulnerability compels others to shed their masks. Your courage to admit uncertainty disarms, until all that is left is raw honesty and frailty of our common human condition.
“We earn our right to speak into other people’s lives when we have logged enough hours listening to their truths, and been willing to be changed by their beauty. We compel people to join our cause and believe in our God when we thread the Great Commandment into the Great Commission: love your neighbor as yourself. In these days of constant social media noise and soul crushing amounts of information feed — there is no greater love than disciplined, focused, listening. People are hungering to be heard, understood, and connected. Our stories are waiting to be heard. Listen to other people’s stories as if your salvation depended on it, because I think it might. Therefore go, and be evangelized.”