Who are we listening to?

GOT QUESTIONS: Hearing from good people who don’t always agree

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Photo: Getty Images

People encounter many voices throughout the day, from musicians to preachers to politicians. Multiple studies say that the average human hears 20,000 to 30,000 words a day spoken by dozens of different people. This abundance of noise leads us to ask an important question: Who are we listening to?

Most Christians I presented this question to immediately replied that they are, or at least should be, listening to God. We can listen to God through Scripture, in times of prayerful reflection, by sensing the movement of the Holy Spirit and lots of other ways. God speaks through Jesus, and God speaks through our fellow humans.

There are good and holy things that come from hearing different people and their opinions, experiences and dreams. We are aware that not everyone intends to speak goodness into our lives. John reminds us that we will encounter those who “speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (1 John 4:5-6). So which voices are shaping us? Whose voices are influencing our church communities?

I spoke with ministry leaders and church attenders and explored a number of websites and social media pages within our denomination. There is a diversity of voices in a myriad of genres that we are listening to within our USMB family. For one thing, we are listening to each other. We ponder our pastors’ sermons and have good conversation with other people in our congregations. Many of us are tuning in to LEAD Pods hosted by Matt Ehresman, participating in LEAD Cohorts and reading Christian Leader. We hear each other and are being shaped as brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are also listening to voices from across the global church, finding goodness in different denominations and traditions. On its church website, Axiom Church in Peoria, Ariz., lists a number of authors, musicians and visual artists who are making an impact on their community, including Dallas Willard, Jan Johnson and Wild Earth. Multiply Mission Mobilizer Joanna Chapa shares some voices shaping her this season, with Bianca Juarez Olthoff, Phylicia Masonheimer and Curt Thompson among the group.

People in our communities are listening to ministry leaders Priscilla Shirer, Chip Ingram, N.T. Wright and Rich Villodas and performing artists Preston and Jackie Perry and Rend Collective. We listen to groups creating online content such as The Bible Project and The Chosen series. We are hearing from people who were alive before our time, from early Anabaptist leaders to more recent authors such as C.S. Lewis. Some voices we hear don’t agree with each other on every aspect of life, like theologians Greg Boyd and John Piper, but we are taking time to hear different perspectives.

There are people that point us to God who aren’t specifically connected to our Christian communities. Pastor Alex Janzen of Community Bible Church in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, encourages us to pay attention to “everyday voices” in our lives because “when listening to [people] who aren’t overtly spiritual or even overtly relevant, we can still find truth.” Janzen has found that “we can listen to a reliable God through unreliable people as long as we check that it lines up with Scripture, with who we know God is.”

In all the noise of life, we are finding good people to listen to and hearing God in the process.

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