Whoever has ears, let them hear.
— Matthew 11:15

Last week a few of us headed to First Friday's in hopes of creating a space for listening.  Specifically, we set out to hear what people wanted to share about the church in America.  One of the things churches are known for is projecting our views onto the world and expecting others to become like us. Additionally, we've adopted the modern cultural value of constant noise and activity which often prevents us from being people who know how to be silent and truly listen.  Consequently we've never learned how to have "ears to hear" and our voice is often experienced as judgmental and dogmatic. 

Over the short history of Oak Life we've sought to subvert this tendency by practicing the discipline of listening.  It's sort of evangelism in reverse where we seek to be transformed by the stories, voices, and experiences of our community.  The value of listening is regularly seen in our gatherings and church formation as there are lots of spaces for conversation and learning from one another.  Sometimes listening can be challenging and even painful as we are often forced to confront our own missteps reflected back to us; but if held as an opportunity for transformation can provide space for healing, reconciliation, and growth.  And at it's best, cultivating a posture of listening allows us to hear spiritual realities and even the presence of the divine. 

So we put out a chalk board sign and invited people to share their thoughts with us about the church.  There was no hidden agenda, just a space to listen and learn.  While many people shared with us in person through conversation, some folks were also willing to write down their thoughts in journals.  

May we be people who have ears to hear.  Special thanks to the folks who shared with us.  Also, if you'd like so share your "Dear Church" note feel feel to leave a message in the comments!

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"Dear Church, Love now!  Teach more about love and less about judgment.  Less talk about tithes.  Get into the community more.  Be realistic and understanding.  Fire Joel Osteen!!!! Money hungry pastors aren't a good look!"

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"Why yall be so judgemental?"

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"More love and support"

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"Dear Church, Our relationship has been like a roller coaster.  I realized that I don't like roller coasters so I stopped riding and sat still and started helping others who were tired of riding.  Now, I coast through life on a spiritual journey towards peace, love, and justice for those on the margins"

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"Dear Church, now is the time more than ever to accept.  Bring people together and love.  Isn't that what you were supposed to do in the first place?  What happened?"

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"What's up with the Nashville Statement."

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"Be in the community.  Be a part of it.  Be of use to it.  Participate"

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"Church is where we get to practice what it means to be human. - James Luther Adams"

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"Church - it evokes quietness and connectedness in me at once together.  It represents hope and love, but also sometimes lots of rigidity and hierarchy.  I am a deeply spiritual person still looking for my 'church' in life." 

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"Dear Church, I've been a believer/follower for many years.  I hope we can more actively come alongside the poor and marginalized more each day like we are calle to do.  God bless and much love."

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"Don't be like Joel Osteen!  What can we do to support the artist community?"

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"Dear Church, thank you for taking me in when I was alone.  Thank you for helping me in so many ways.  I know you're not perfect but thank you for being in the world.  I hope I can be less of a critic and more of an agent for change to help you be healthy"

 

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