On the other hand, at many points he also nails things right on, and I appreciate some of his psychological insight into community dynamics. Today the thing that struck me the most was his advice about listening as one of the chief tasks of ministry. He writes:
Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of live for the brethren is learning to listen to them.... Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.
How true this is! I know it's one of the biggest things I struggled with as a pastor, and continue to struggle with to be honest. There are so many times when I just want to dominate a conversation, and times when I have to consciously, deliberately keep my mouth shut or force myself to ask the other person a question so as not to let myself do that. And (having pointed the finger first at myself, I feel slightly better pointing it at others as well), I can't tell you how many other pastor's I've known that just love to hear themselves talk and will barely let you get a word in edgewise. There was the time in Yorkville, for instance, when we were just starting off on the church plant and I was trying to meet with all the local pastors. One of them took me out to lunch, but didn't ask me a single question about our plant the whole time. He spent the entire time telling me all about their church and how he had single-handedly grown it from 50 people to 800 people in the past five years. I literally don't think I said more than two or three sentences the entire conversation.
And it's not just that one guy (who admittedly, probably had some ego issues). Even pastors that I've known well and highly respect were not always very good listeners and almost never asked questions. They were very passionate about their things, and very eager to share all about them with me, but never got around to asking about my passions. And what concerns me is that I see this same tendency in a few of my classmates at Seminary too. There are a great group of people here, and I love all of them, but there are more than a few who can be so excited and passionate about what they're into, that they rarely let others into the conversation, and they almost never ask questions of others. This is a problem for folks who are going ministry and wanting to lead churches. If they can't learn to listen now, how will they be able to do it as pastors?
Anyhow, anyone who knows me knows how often all this is true of me as well, so I don't say this in judgment, but just as a caution to anyone who wants to go into ministry and as a reminder to myself - learn to ask questions and learn to listen.
Links to this post