Listen to the Man!

The congregation faced a serious financial dilemma. The members, old and young, knew that something had to be done to meet the emergency. They knew they needed a workable plan that the larger part of the congregation would accept and work to implement. All looked to the pastor for leadership. . .

-Chaplain of Riverside Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee at the time this article was written

The congregation faced a serious financial dilemma. The members, old and young, knew that something had to be done to meet the emergency. They knew they needed a workable plan that the larger part of the congregation would accept and work to implement. All looked to the pastor for leadership.

As the pastor prayed for divine guidance he received it through a channel he did not most readily expect. An elderly widow of modest means telephoned and asked the pastor to come for a visit in her home. He was at her door the next day, expecting a rehearsal of septuagenarian complaints. Not so this visit. Rather, she excitedly invited the pastor in and announced that she had a plan that would lead to the solution of the church's impending crisis.

Of all things! She was not a board member or a member of the special committee soon to meet. The most ever heard from this dear, sweet soul would be a subdued but fervent "Amen." Now she announced to the seminary-trained, experienced pastor that she had advice to give him on how to run the church. Alert and sensitive for her years, she sensed the pastor's reservations and assured him that her concern was born of love and a dedicated interest in the church. "I love this church," she emphasized. "I love it more than you do. I found Christ as a young mother in this church. My children were reared and sent from this church as gospel workers. My husband was eulogized from its altar. You have been here a few years and will be called away in a few more. I will be here until I die. Yes, you love the church, but I love it more."

The pastor relaxed and listened while she laid before him a well-thought-out, prayer-saturated plan to meet the church's emergency. The plan was of the Lord. The pastor accepted it and presented it to the church. It was enthusiastically and unanimously accepted and the problem gave way to a glorious victory.

The Wise Leader Listens

Pastors and other leaders must lead. The responsibility of formulating decisive plans and initiating positive action is what they are trained for. Nonetheless, wise leaders disdain not to listen. Like the cagey creature of the woods whose constantly sensitive nostrils miss no nearby scent and whose ears catch the slightest sound of snapping twig or crushing leaf, the real leader listens.

The wise man, Solomon, tells of the little city with few men to defend it that was saved because somebody took time to listen:

There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and beseiged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. (Eccl. 9:14, 15.) Not a man of royal lineage, not a military strategist just a poor man with a good idea, whose time had come.

The full, fruitful life of the apostle Paul was saved from an untimely end at the hands of cruel assassins, bound together under oath, because a leader took a young man by the hand, led him aside privately, and took time to hear his story. (See Acts 23:12-22.) Our churches are generally blessed with a well-trained, God-ordained ministry. No case is here being made for leaders to abandon their position and follow others. However, ideas that can be of tremendous help can and often do come from others.

Discoveries by Nonprofessionals

Earl Nightingale mentions in Our Changing World (#2406) that the greatest discoveries in surgery, anesthesiology, asepsis, and roentgenology were discovered by persons who were not surgeons. Anesthesia, the blessing of painless sleep during surgery; asepsis, the sterilization of all that comes in contact with the patient during surgery; and roentgenology, the use of X-rays to see what's going on inside a patient these techniques and procedures are so vital to surgery today that an operation would be unthinkable without them. Yet these were not discovered or invented by surgeons.

Can you imagine a surgeon preferring to do surgery on a screaming, jerking, hysterical patient, telling his assistants, "No anesthesia, thank you. I was taught the old way and I think I'll stick to that." Oddly enough, anesthesia was not welcomed by surgeons with open arms. Many actively opposed it. Nightingale concludes that in any profession or calling it is certain that there are better ways of doing things. All the ideas for improvement do not necessarily have to come from those engaged in that particular work. He suggests that members of professional groups should place a sign where all could see it, reading: "We know there are better ways to do what we are doing. Can you help us find those ways?"

Why Members Don't Listen to Preachers

In 1984 George Orwell depicts a world in which all men are supposedly equal, but some are "more equal than others." The dictator is "Big Brother" and in every person's home there is an all-seeing electronic eye. A secreted warning, "Big Brother Is Watching," is fearfully whispered from one to an other. In a democracy and much more so in a church family, the proper relationship of leader and people is better symbolized by an ear in every home. The leader who is forever talking and not taking time to listen has few supporters. Because he does not have time to listen to them, they give up listening to him.

The resourceful leader listens with a sincere desire to learn. He listens for ideas as well as for facts. He does not permit words, phrases, or ideas to prejudice him against a speaker so that he cannot listen objectively. A good listening leader never judges the worth of what a person has to say by his appearance or style of speech. He is not a know-it-all. Unlike Zophar, the Naamathite (Job 11:1/2) he well knows that wisdom neither begins nor ends with himself. There are good and worth-while ideas at the grass roots level.

The dedicated Adventist ministry is aware that the finishing of the gospel will require a team effort utilizing hands, brains, and voices of laity and ministry. Wrote Ellen White:

The work of Cod in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers. --Gospel Workers, p. 352.

A skillful blending of energies, ideas, and innovations is a must. So when the sincere, dedicated layman approaches his pastor or conference official with constructive, objective criticism or an innovative, interesting idea, don't cut him off, or squeeze him out. Spare the time. Listen to the man!

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-Chaplain of Riverside Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee at the time this article was written

April 1973

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