As the pastor of a church that is coming out of a very difficult season with lots of lingering hurt, I get a lot of feedback and shared concerns, even critique. That is ministry, and especially ministry in a replanting/rebuilding context.
I have found that when I am most inclined to shut out what I would prefer to define as noise, I need to hear it and allow others to be heard. But I can’t just stop listening once they have vented frustrations or shared their struggle, I have to keep listening until we get to hope. What are we hopeful for in the life of the church and what are the evidences of grace already among us that we can celebrate.
Now in my situation, to be honest, the excited voices far outweigh the critical or concerned. There is a general sense of God at work and we are trusting together in him. But I realize that this strategy to keep listening can benefit all of us greatly in our faith as well.
You see, each day you hear tons of voices telling you what they think it true. Voices advocating for this position or that. And voices making judgments about you and how well you live or do this Christian thing. Those paired with our internal accuser and the devil voicing suggestions of our identity or inability to please God and be secure in him. The voices that tell you how you don’t try hard enough or what a failure you are and how disappointed God is with you.
When those voices make a chorus… keep listening. Actually, listen deeper. Because there is actual truth to be found. And there are voices, and ultimately the voice of God, declaring a far better and truer message. “If you are in Christ, you are secure. Jesus is not ashamed of you. You are free to obey him. The lies of your culture are not the truest thing about you but instead what Jesus says about you is your place of identity.”
Keep listening until you hear the good news. And not just the news that makes you feel better in the moment, but the news that transparently reveals how sinful and messed up you are, and says that Jesus saw that and said, “Mine.” Keep listening and be free.