One of church leaders’ responsibilities lies in helping the Body follow God’s design to be interdependent, valuing one another and finding unity in our diversity. To do that, we must understand what it will take to get there. What’s at the core? Then, we must do more than tell people how to function. We must personally practice it, “being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3).
First determine the core elements of Body Life.
We could list a number of core elements but we’ll make this post about listening. Think about the critical nature of listening in Body Life:
We aren’t going to follow God’s design for the Church to function as a Body unless we learn to listen to one another. We’re told, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). So many of the “one another commands” of Scripture won’t find their optimal expression if we haven’t first listened. — Unless we take time to listen to the struggles or victories someone’s experiencing, our reactions will lack depth of expression. Shallow, on the surface, responses minimize the impact we can have on one another. Didn’t you become a leader to touch people’s lives?
The potential for unity out of diversity increases as we listen to one another. As parts of one Body, we come together from varying backgrounds with differing perceptions and philosophies. Our natural tendency will be to view life through our own mindset based on our personal experiences. That, however, leads to misunderstandings which in turn leads to possible conflict rather than the building up of one another. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20) We may not always agree but we will at least understand the other person’s perspective if we listen. We will have a greater tendency to appreciate, respect, and value the other person when we see where they are coming from in arriving at their conclusions.
Then make that core element, listening, a part of your church’s modus operandi.
Start with yourself. Develop your own listening skills so you can set an example for those you serve.
To Read: Leadership Skill: Listening
Purposefully build in opportunities for people to share their opinions, concerns, and needs but also be spontaneous about it. Stop talking and say similar to “I want to hear what you think.” Help others in your group learn to listen by sporadically asking something like, “What do you think Bob is saying?” Active listening comes not only by hearing what someone says but also providing accurate feedback, using clarifying questions, and being able to paraphrase what you think you hear, giving the other person opportunity to correct you.
Don’t let disagreements turn into unhealthy conflict and disunity. Stress the wisdom of taking time to truly listen to one another before going any further. — “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Prov. 18:15)