Reading and Listening Well

We here at the Free Methodist Church in Canada hope that our pastors, leaders and church folk are lifelong learners.  I know lots of people who love reading books, articles and blogs or listening to podcasts.  And that’s great.  That’s how thinking gets stimulated and imagination gets stirred up.  That’s how ideas grow and dreams get sparked.  But when reading a book or listening to a podcast we need to do it well.  What do I mean by that?  

1)  Develop some breadth to your reading and listening. Don’t just stick with your favorite people or themes.  Stretch yourself a bit.  It is good to have our brains and our beliefs and plans poked and prodded from different angles.  It might even be good to occasionally read or listen to something that we might naturally disagree with because it will sharpen us.  It will cause us to think through why we believe what we believe or why our plan is the right plan.  

2)  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see the whole picture.   What we read or hear is often only part of the story.  Some what you read or hear is theory that has never been put into practice.  Some theory may have been put into practice but this still isn’t the whole story.  Some writers and podcasters are painting us a picture but we might not see it clearly.  Don’t be discouraged if the picture isn’t perfect or glean what you can from it.   

3)  Start where you are.  When you do get inspired by something and decide that you need to act, do it.  Don’t wait until things are perfect.  Don’t spend too much time wishing you had this or that.  Just get going.  Likewise, don’t keep putting things off until all the conditions are perfect.   Start moving with what you have and where you are.  The dream or plan might change along the way, but that’s ok.

4)  Don’t disparage those who aren’t doing the same thing as you.  Hopefully what you are reading or listening to helps shape what it is God is calling you to do.  But that doesn’t mean it is for everyone else.  You worry about what God is asking of you and let God worry about everyone else.  Right now in the church world, there is too much tearing down of other people and models, and not enough doing what God has set in front of us.  Let’s not play that game.

5)  Don’t leave God out of the process.  It is good to read, listen, be inspired and dream but if God isn’t the center of the plan, then it’s no good.  Always let God have the final word.  Let Him be your editor, your filter and your ultimate dream giver.  If we fail at this step, we only end up chasing cool ideas that resonate for us but aren’t what God is calling us to do.

So keep reading and keep listening.  But filter it well.  See what God has for you.  It will be good.  

Marc McAlister,

Director of Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada   

Church Health Thursdays