Stop, Look, and Listen
When I was a child, I learned a lesson that we all learn at a young age. As soon as I was old enough to play outside, my parents took me by the hand and taught me what I must do. They said I should “never ever go out on the street until I was absolutely sure there were no cars coming.” I remember them telling me repeatedly, “Stop, look, and listen.” Even if I wanted to chase a ball rolling onto the street, they said I must first wait before I fetched it. I hated that, but I’m sure it saved my life more than a few times.
I feel as a presbytery that we are on the sidewalk waiting to go out on the street. We know we will move out soon, but we are taking a moment as a larger community to “stop, look, and listen” before we make a run for it. This is a critical moment, to be sure, because it will determine which direction we take and how we will get there. It is one of those moments that makes me feel impatient, but if there is anything I have learned from my 25 years of ministry, sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.
So what will the next few months look like for us? For starters, the Generative Catalyst Team, which is the vision team of Presbytery Council, is planning a few special gatherings in the early spring where elders from our 40 congregations will look and listen for God’s leading of our presbytery. These gatherings will be unlike any we have ever convened before, and I’m confident they will connect us to each other in a way that reveals God’s vision for us in this next season of ministry together.
We are also privileged to bring Russ Crabtree to our presbytery in February, first as the speaker at our annual Pastors’ Retreat and then for a Leadership Day with all the teams of Council and the Committee on Ministry. Russ is a highly acclaimed author and church consultant in the field of “organizational intelligence,” which is just a fancy way of saying “deep listening.” In the same way a doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to your heart, Russ teaches leaders how they can listen to the aspirations and experiences of their people so that they may lead them more faithfully and fruitfully. In an era of constant change and adaptation, reading the context of our ministries with greater accuracy and timeliness is essential to making better decisions on behalf of our churches and presbytery.
Through these efforts, I know God is going to equip us for great things ahead. I’m so excited I can hardly wait, but I’m just going to take a deep breath, look, and listen—until it is time to run. I hope you are as excited as I am, and that you are waiting with me, with an open heart.