Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pat Took, Listening, Church Meetings and the Future of BUGB

I knew that snappy title would capture your attention....

Last week I attended the Heart of England Baptist Association (HEBA) Ministers’ Conference. We were privileged to have some thought-provoking, and quite challenging teaching from Pat Took (Current BUGB President, former Regional Ministers Team Leader in the London Baptist Association) and Roy Searle (Northumbria Community, former BUGB President also). 

The subject was “Listening” and, as Roy Searle’s grandson had pointed out, you might have thought ministers wouldn’t have needed much teaching on that. However, of course we do, we need to regularly be reminded of our call, and all that that entails.

I tweeted during one of Pat’s sessions, and some folks asked if I could collate them in one place, so I do so here. 

My feeling is that what she said has relevance far beyond our own interpersonal relationships and church meetings, and might say something to the current conversation about the future of the Baptist Union. I wonder if the lessons about learning that come towards the end of this series of tweets might speak to us about our deliberations and the processes we’ll go through in deciding the future shape of the Union (if there is to be one, that is...)

So, here are the tweets, I’ll offer commentary in the comments section if any aren’t as clear as you’d like them to be.
“the first thing God says about us is that we are good, the second is that it's not good for us to be alone: 
“there is an extraordinary, instinctive, primary desire for us to talk to each other”
"the problem is our self-obsessed nature makes it difficult to hear one another” 
"we need to listen for our own sakes, in order that accumulated wisdom might enable us to survive” 
“younger people need to learn to value the wisdom of age, older people need to learn to value new wisdom” 
"If we can step out of who we are and pay serious attention to another it is seriously enriching" 
“often the more different the other person is, the more enriching the listening might be"  
"We listen to each other, for the other person's sake, and in doing so we honour their humanity" 
"listening is a fundamental part of being human, and should be doubly so for pastors” 
“Pastors need to listen in a committed, generous and energetic way.” 
"I need to listen because it may be the other person's heart, the other person's mouth that is holding God's word for me" 
“if we have a deeply held conviction that God speaks through the gathered body, why don't we teach people to listen?" 
“Lesson 1. If you come to church meeting with your mind made up, you haven't heard from God" 
"Lesson 2. What we're seeking to know and do is the will of Christ, which might mean risky self-abandonment" 
"Each church meeting is a chance to be re-converted to the way of Christ. We need to keep re-learning this" 
"we need to learn how to recognise the voice of God together, which will be different from when we are alone" 
“if your church meeting decisions don't reflect the priorities of Christ, you're not discerning the mind of Christ" 
Your thoughts?


Ali Griffiths said...

Amen to all the above. I think the fundamental problem we have with listening is that it requires oodles of humility...

Rev Simon Mattholie said...

A wonderful idea, but back on planet earth how does this all work? Let's be honest, we have an inherited Victorian model of democracy which we practice in our church meetings. Until we are all prepared to give this up, and listen to God in the context of worship I cannot see much changing. I would love to see some direction coming from the denomination on this...

Ian Greig said...

Some really good insights on how listening to God and discerning together is different from making one's mind up on one's own.

I agree with Simon M, there's a culture shift involved. Both in our denominational machinations and in individual church's church meetings, we are usually too busy trying to be a kind of trades union, to actually hear God afresh.

Churches which have learned to engage with the life of the Spirit are usually better at allowing spiritual people to give a servant lead, and at doing the hearing and weighing. We can learn from them.