A Listening Culture

September 3, 2020 | Written by Jonathan Cleveland

Formation is a series of posts about ideas and truths God is using to shape us at Pulpit Rock.

“Cancel culture” is a fascinating term and an even more fascinating phenomenon. It refers to the practice of withdrawing support from people or organizations when they do something you perceive as objectionable.

I find it fascinating.

On one hand I relate to the instinct to stop listening to things that bother, offend or challenge me. I’d much rather listen to things that affirm what I think and make me feel good about who I am. Cancel culture seems like a very human instinct.

But on the other hand, it seems silly and incredibly unhealthy to cultivate voices that only tell us what we’d like to hear. And a little indulgent to turn off voices that bother us.

This instinct toward cancellation of others has always been with us. You see it multiple times in the Bible.

One of my favorite stories is when the Apostle Paul speaks at Mars Hill in the city of Athens. He has a chance to address the greatest Greek philosophers and make his case for Jesus. It is an amazing speech in Acts 17. It is also amazing to see the reaction of these philosophers…

“When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” Acts 17:32 – NIV

Some found what he said objectionable and they “cancelled” him by mocking his message. Mockery is probably the oldest form of cancel culture.

But then there were the others.

They took the harder path. They chose to listen. And not just to listen once, but to keep listening. And God honored that softness of heart by imparting to them the gift of the Gospel.

In this moment in America, that sort of listening seems rare. Sneering and mockery seem to be the most popular response. And a close second to that is the temptation to just tune out and numb out because of the overwhelming number of voices.

We’d like to go a different direction at Pulpit Rock. We want to have a Listening Culture.

That means we want to cultivate our ability to listen to voices we wouldn’t normally hear from.

And when we hear something that challenges us, we want to go slow and listen well, instead of pulling away and tuning out.

That’s what our Armchair Experts series was about this summer. Cultivating our ability to listen to voices we don’t normally get to hear from. That skill gives the Holy Spirit space to move us and shape us.

Cancel culture ensures we will always stay the same.

Listening culture ensures we will never be stuck.

As God’s people, we need to reject a culture that teaches us to cancel people. The Kingdom culture teaches us to see people as people. And to maintain the softness of heart that allows us to really listen.

My prayer for us is that we will continue to be a culture of listeners!

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