Church Innovations’ Partners Post

June 4, 2009

Addressing vs Conversing

Politicians, whenever they speak, address some community.  It seems inevitably one-way.  The result is a corporate (communal) experience, a message waiting to fall on receptive ears.  If we’re lucky, such a message invites us to open up doors and windows, to listen and speak beyond that moment.

When I read in our congregational discovery interviews people’s stories about how their church fights, it’s the one-way stuff they hate. It’s the one-way stuff that seems to leave them out.  If they’re truly open, it makes them long for more and better conversation.  If they’re passive-aggressive, it’s something they store up and use against the person who erred in that direction – the pastor, the council president, the head of Sunday School, the music director…

Everyone desires to be heard.  What kind of communication in your congregation is designed to deeply listen to people? How do you make room for that activity in these busy days?  And, and this is important, how do you listen not only to members but to strangers?

Peace.  Pat Taylor Ellison

1 Comment »

  1. Great question to raise. Two thoughts. The church has been hijacked by the polemical methods of discussion that exist in the dominant culture. Plus, the religious right has fostered this kind of “my way or the highway” kind of conversation. The self-righteous piety that justifies a polemical and highly rhetorical form of discourse is a root cause for this lack of open dialogue. I would even go so far to say that our seminaries have fostered this in their classes and students. The “black and white” nature of theological discourse at our seminaries does not allow for the dialectic middle. Especially in the area of “justice” issues and liturgical practices is this the case. It concerns me that the sharing of all ideas is not encouraged, only the correct ones. I think there is some carryover from all of us as leaders into our congregations in this regard.

    Comment by Paul Hill — June 4, 2009 @ 8:57 am

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