There is a tension among leaders to always have the right answer, the correct summary, and the funniest joke. Leaders can get used to crowds watching them, clapping for them, and at times fall into the trap of depending on recognition for a feeling of self worth. This is a symptom of being self-absorbed. When we’re listening to God, to others, and reflecting with a humble heart about what we learn, we are not dependent on the accolades and recognition of others for our self-worth.
Today is a good day for listening.
This takes discipline. I’m a pastor, and I also enjoy serving other pastors as a consultant for church health, leadership development, and communication. My entire public world is wrapped up in people asking me questions and me helping them find the answers and create solutions. I must discipline myself daily to shut out distractions and hear from God. It is He who gives me my identity; I am who He says I am, and this isn’t determined by a job, project, or public persona. I position my life to hear what He has to say. I do this by staying true to what He has already revealed.
Here are my disciplines, with the goal in mind to hear from God. Even today. This is how I position myself to hear from God and to grow stronger as a person that identifies himself as a follower of Jesus. And I believe that these disciplines must be in place not as a formula or success tool, but as elements present in anyone’s life who is working hard to grow in their faith. I’m saying this is the way it is done and that I can honestly say I do it this way.
I read the Bible daily. I do this a lot of different ways and at a lot of different times. I read through specific passages, but also spend time studying a particular book in the Bible. I’ve explained more about reading here.
I pray. I have time set aside but also make it a part of who I am. I ask for stuff, explain things, ask about things, ask for guidance, intervention, and ask for God to lead. I ask to be a good listener. Then I keep doing these other things with an eye towards not just listening, but also hearing. Hearing doesn’t have to mean hearing a literal, audible voice from God. Hearing can be using a trained eye to receive the sum of everything I am reading, doing, experiencing, and learning. I’ve talked more about praying here. And then here.
We follow and obey, in the context of community, but sometimes while on our own. Don’t give me too much credit here. I haven’t been called to risk my life or do anything extremely dangerous. But it can still be difficult. I’ve felt God work in His Spirit to do things that have been uncomfortable, and at times risky. Sometimes it is simply obeying what I know to be in Scripture in a situation even though logic dictates otherwise. So I’ve told the truth when a lie clearly could have won the day. I’ve taken responsibility for situations that could probably (and rightly) be mostly blamed on someone else. I have honored people who deserve none, stayed silent about others that cannot control their own own predisposition to harm others through gossip, and tried to make peace with those who are never at peace. I do these things because God requires us to follow and obey Him regardless of our circumstances. I don’t have a lot of sleepless nights, and I don’t have to live with guilt. Following God is better. I’ve discussed this in greater detail here. It is worth saying that I follow and obey as part of a community, not as an isolated man. There are seasons for solitude, but the Christian experience is about living life with others, not standing above them or completely isolated from everyone else. Isolation looks too much like hell, and community feels more like heaven.
Today is a good day for listening. But you may be too distracted to hear anything. I hope you can hear something through what I’ve written here. I just prayed that you would.