By Rich Robinson
Last time I wrote about stop, look, listen in the context of leadership.
This time I want us to think about this in the context of mission. Where do we start?
Well, as a kid I was introduced to the ‘Green Cross Code” – faithfully instilling in me the key steps of crossing a road. Stop. Look. Listen. With the help of my parents I learnt to cross the road, and, apart from a few near misses in my teenage years, I have a good record. We have drummed into us, “stop, look and listen”.
This is great advice as we think about engaging in mission.
Just stop. Don’t rush in. If you rush in, the danger is that you go full of solutions, full of assumptions, full of ‘strength’, full of mis-conceptions or pre-conceptions. I have done this many times. And many times I hear the words “But I thought….” coming out of my mouth. We need to not engage as ‘benefactors’ (as Jesus describes it in Luke 22.25-27). We need to not go as the ones who have the answers, have the resources, have the plan. We need to not rush in. Just stop.
As you stop it gives you the capacity and opportunity to look around. You would never encourage anyone to cross a road with their eyes closed. Open your eyes. Observe the community, watch its rhythms, look for its gathering points, examine its life. Where do people gather? What do people prioritise? What are people missing? Where is there hurt, loss or gap? Where are people struggling?
Look for who moves towards you. If you are not rushing at them and talking at them it gives you a chance to see who is ‘leaning towards you’. Look for those that engage you in conversation. Look for those that are open to a connection. Look for those who help you to navigate or integrate into the community.
The old saying is that God gave you two ears and one mouth (and helpfully two eyes as well to back up my earlier point!). We need to do more listening and looking than talking & acting. For us activists (and I am a card carrying, self-confessed recovering activist) that is tough. If you read the Gospels it is amazing how often Jesus asked questions. I can almost see the pause before pivoting back the dialogue to the questioner.
When we lived in a poor neighbourhood and had small children we just used to walk around the council estate and pray. Listening to God’s heart for the neighbourhood. Listening to the sounds & people of the neighbourhood.
A great way to listen is to ask questions. Ask questions of the people and the place. What do you like about …? What do you dislike about …? What would you like to change …? What would good news mean to you? What would good news look like to you? How could you bring this change? What could I do to help you to do this? The list goes on…
And ask God. What does He see? What does He say about what goes on in the neighbourhood? What’s His message for these people or this place? Learn to listen to God through word & spirit. To see as He sees. To hear his truth and heart for a place or people group.
Jesus sent his disciples to new places in Luke 9 & Luke 10. They were described as ‘sheep amongst wolves’ (v 3) as they went, but yet are described as ‘returning with joy’ (v 17) They were told to take nothing with them, to stay and be served by those who welcomed them and they reported back to Jesus that they saw God at work. They were to go and ‘stop, look and listen’ as they engaged with a neighbourhood.
Our world signs up for strength, skills, programs and a cast-iron guarantee it’ll work before we’ll even take a first step. That wasn’t the way of the disciples with Jesus.
What would it look like for you to stop? Is stopping activity? Is it creating space in your diary to think or journal?
What does it look like to look? How can you ‘see’ the people or place through God’s eyes and with God’s heart?
What does it look like for you to listen? In a noisy world how is it quiet enough and you attentive enough to listen?