Getting Better at Durability: How Can This Last?

    The church surrenders and goes through the refreshment required by the Holy Spirit who is working in its midst, to encourage the gifts and strengths and experience God put in each person, to create safe fellowships as incubators for dreams and vision to be born, and to settle on earth a place where listening love can be practiced and manifested. There are four soft spots on this journey where a church can get bogged down. They and my articles that deal with them are 1) Determination: Are We Ready? 2) Discernment: Who Are We Ready to Be? 3) Getting Better at Deployment: Is Each Person in Best Position? 4) Getting Better at Durability: How Can This Last?  Listening can help.


    Durability is what we tried to do well before our surrender and renewal. We tried to keep the machinery going. We tried to maintain whatever it was that meant the most to ourselves in our walk with God. Now, in church refreshment, the maintenance and machinery gets cared for with not nearly so much angst and worry, guilt and obligation as before. While providing for ministries outside the church, the Holy Spirit has also provided for ministries within the church, to and among those who have been faithful to the church for many long years. Maintaining both the city on a hill and the salt to mingle in the world can get confusing sometimes (See Edward H. Hammett, The Gathered and Scattered Church). Building durability for whatever new thing the Holy Spirit has brought is a soft spot on the path of church refreshment. Listening can help.

    Now I have to proclaim that there is no destination or completion of this journey until the old things of this world have passed away and God has made all things new. The view of church refreshment as a program to complete or a destination to reach will certainly minimize the likelihood for the work to endure (See George W. Bullard, Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential, 8-10). Rather than a diet or fad, this church refreshment will become the lifestyle of the church. Listening in order to assess eagerness, listening in order to give birth to new stories, listening in order to minister fittingly, will continue. And listening in order to facilitate endurance, will grow.

    The first, foremost, and primary focus for durability is the people! The people who have invested their eagerness and their storytelling into ministry inside or outside the church require the maintenance. Do not focus on maintaining policies or structures or buildings even if those are part of something new. The listening energy is for the people in service. These servants, more and more aware of their own gifts and their contexts' needs, require the opportunity to tell their stories in small and large settings. They also want to know they belong to something bigger, so they need to be shown how to listen to the other stories building around them.

    Here are some further listening skills we will want to teach aware and called individuals who are investing their awareness and eagerness into ministry. In the midst of the safe spaces already in place for good listening, we need advancing listeners who will wonder about the stories they hear around them and express that wonder in ways that honor the safety of the communication setting. Evaluation and accountability can happen without top-down patrolling and bottom-up reporting.

    These advancing listeners may wonder about some gap in the other person's story, like this: I wonder what background we are not seeing. I wonder if there were other complicating circumstances. I wonder if there is someone we are not hearing. I wonder what was the reason for your decision. I wonder what you learned. I wonder what you will do next. I wonder what you expect to result from this action. I wonder about this other step I understood that you intended to take. I wonder if there is a kinder way to say this.

    These advancing listeners may wonder about something going on, like this: I wonder if there are elephants in the room we are not talking about. I wonder if the affair going on between these two is hurting our ministries. I wonder what is behind your desire to lash out. I wonder if others feel the controlling power of this one individual. I wonder if you and I could listen to each other better. I wonder if you really want to be here where it is expected that you will listen rather than tell others what to do.

    These advancing listeners may wonder about something in their new ministry, like this: I wonder what the young people on my street mean by this word they use all the time. I wonder what it means when the men of this certain demographic all act the same way in this. I wonder what would happen if I came to church worship talking like my new friends. I wonder why I never before listened to this demographic. I wonder how many other languages there are out there that we never even try to understand (See Edward H. Hammett, Spiritual Leadership).

    Care and crises management among the servers is of utmost importance to the durability of church refreshment. Ongoing evaluation and accountability will automatically happen in a listening environment that is safe for vulnerability and trust to grow, and where the listeners are continually improving their skills. When the ground is prepared with gift listening, the seeds will grow without pushing or pulling.

    This kind of listening, without hard rocks thrown or allowed to remain, will produce effective evaluation and accountability and continuing growth in listening so as to traverse well the soft spot of Durability on the path of church refreshment.

    Think, enjoy the process, communicate.


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