Listening and being inefficient in a results-oriented society

Attended the Mosaix Global Network members retreat in Chicago this week for the first time. So sweet to be with a wide variety of multiethnic church and ministry leaders who took the time and energy to invest in relationships that will no doubt bear long-term fruit and impact, though it may not quite look like what people tend took for in so-called measurable results.

There could be many pages written about those 2 days together, as the conversations delved into a handful of big issues that seem to hinder the American church from breaking free from being the most segregated hour in society. One study found that only 8% of Christian congregations in the U.S. are considered racially or ethnically “mixed,” meaning no one group makes up more than 80% of the congregation. One of the things about diversifying is how much work it takes, and how much time it takes, to really understand being in someone else’s shoes.

Active listening takes that extra effort and time. People can use the same words and mean different things. People could use different words and mean the same thing. It’s not so much about the words that people say, it’s what people mean by the words they say. And in so doing, becoming more sensitive to others, and being less sensitive about ourselves — thinking others more highly than yourself.

Listening is long, hard, ardouous work.. it’s slow and inefficient. If I were to take a stopwatch and time, a majority of the time was necessary to sort through definition of terms (like multiethnic or multicultural or multiracial or something else) and hearing stories and back stories, leaving a minority of the time to work on takeaways and so-called practical next steps. I love how Krista Tippett (host of On Being podcast)  poses a listening posture through her question, “what does that word hold for you?”

Yes, it can feel like we’re inching our way alon, and the metaphor that comes to mind is a turtle running a marathon. Rather than making everyone train for and run a marathon, we can all finish if we walk together. More concisely, the African proverb: “Alone, we go faster. Together, we go further.”

And aren’t long-term relationships more important than short-term results? People are far more important than tasks. Getting it right rather than (only) getting it done. And it is the church that should be the one safe place on earth where people can find rest for their soul, in a world surrounded by ruthless expectations for performance and results.

[also] Tricia Johnson’s blog post, A High Privilege, about this retreat


12 responses to “Listening and being inefficient in a results-oriented society”

  1. DJ, this is a great post. Anything collaborative is always more painful than doing it alone. I would die of impatience trying to agree with others on a common definition a “multicultural”. Often the going further part isn’t clear because it takes so long in the beginning. It makes me realize that active listening isn’t something you can do on a large scale. Its really meant within a small community and its not conducive to print forms – its something meant for face2face contact because it can be so exhausting. Its exhausting because we don’t do it much anymore. The gospel of Jesus doesn’t just empowers us to listen actively, it helps be servants to one another.

  2. Fred, thanks for the reply, glad you’ve chimed in. That’s a good thought, that relationship-building is not something that’s large scale, and yet so very necessary and vital.

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