This is part two of a six-part series on the core community practices that best serve community groups. Read part one here.
In this series, we’re looking at six essential practices for a life-giving small group: remembering, listening, blessing, celebrating, mourning, and resting.
In a world that can’t stop talking, listening is a rare virtue.
Christians are a listening people. In Bible reading and reflection, we listen for God’s voice to shape our lives. In prayer, we listen for the “still, small voice” of God. In community, we listen to one another, understanding that every individual is created in the image of God and has astounding value. Throughout church history, the church has encouraged each member to practice “disciplines” of listening to one another—confession, encouragement, and friendship.
Can you think of a friend or co-worker who listens well? A good listener will always have good friends! In our wordy world, listening is a wonderful sign that someone is living for a different world. The Christian hope is in an eternal world where the Word of God is the focus of our worship and our relationships are in perfect harmony.
Our community groups are often only as life-giving as its members are willing to listen. In your sermon discussions, listen to God’s Word and how it invites you to know the living Word. In your prayer, listen for others’ hearts to be revealed in ways that mere conversation often fails to display. In your sharing and fellowship, listen to one another to truly know one another.
Think about the “one another” commands of the New Testament:
- Be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10).
- Honor one another above yourselves (Rom. 12:10).
- Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16).
- Love one another (Rom. 13:8).
- Accept one another as Christ accepted you (Rom. 15:7).
- Encourage one another (2 Cor. 13:11).
- Serve one another humbly in love (Gal. 5:13).
- Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32).
- Bear with each other and forgive one another (Col. 3:13).
Which of these commandments can be practiced apart from good listening? None of them! We must listen well if we are to love, encourage, serve, and forgive one another.
Small groups can be a powerful witness to the world as we simply seek to listen to God and to one another!
What would it look like for your group to listen for God’s voice? How might your small group practice listening to one another? How might you bless your neighbors by creating space for them and listening to them?
Read Part Three: Blessing.
Jeremy Linneman is pastor of community life at Sojourn Community Church, a diverse family of four interdependent congregations in Louisville, Kentucky. A graduate of the University of Missouri and Southern Seminary, he is the founder/director of Fidelity Coaching, a leadership development group, and an occasional writer for The Gospel Coalition and other sites. He and his wife, Jessie, have three sons.