Missional Listening in rural Dorset
With the help of Rural Ministries, Ben Lucas and his family are on the move and he will be working as a Missional Listener for the next few years in rural Dorset. So, what is it all about? We let Ben explain.
Missional Listening. Well, there is a term I had not heard of until early last year and now, in Spring 2017, my family and I are moving to a new house, to a village in Dorset, to be missional listeners!
What does it all mean? What will we be doing?
The Hebrew captives in Babylon ask such an important question for me in their glorious Psalm 127; “how do we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” Though we do not know the persecution experienced by those slaves or by those suffering around the world today, we do live in a strange land. A land so different to the one we seek when praying, the great prayer, ‘your kingdom come’. How do we tell people about our incredible God? How do we lead them to Jesus? How do we share the good news that ‘Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ shall come again’? How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
Daniel is not a bad person to start with! The man who represents to us all Israel at that time, taken into the belly of the beast, embarking on an assimilation programme led by the most powerful king of that age. Can Daniel sing the Lord’s song? Yes, and to such an extent it leads to the powerful kings naming the God of Daniel as the one true God. How did he do it? By missional listening! By having one ear to Yahweh, discerning his will, seeing what he is doing and joining in, being constantly reminded by the unchanging wondrous story of grace. And by having his other ear to the world, listening to the culture, the community he lives in and the needs and desires expressed. Then, courageously acting in love to bring God and his world together. Missional listening?
Our calling to this role has been an ongoing one, birthed so many years ago. A real ‘kairos’ moment happened whilst praying in our role as ministers of a large Baptist church last year. We were asking the question, how do we begin to see 1st, 2nd, even 3rd generation non-Christians come to know Jesus? We have seen lots of biological growth, people coming back to faith, or joining us from other churches, but how might we see conversion growth?
Whilst praying, the Lord reminded me of two passages in Acts. Firstly, during Paul’s enforced break in Athens, he listens! He listens to God, and he listens to that great city. He sees a statue to an unknown God, and then, when the opportunity arises at Mars Hill, he courageously acts in love and preaches with the aim of bringing God and city together. Missional listening.
In the second passage, Paul was in Philippi. Whilst listening to God around the city, he hears of some woman praying by the river. He goes and acts courageously in love and brings them together.
God reminded me of why he called me to ministry. To listen to him with one ear, and tune the other into the rural communities of Dorset, and then courageously act in love to bring them together. Missional listening.
We have called the project Acoustic84. Acoustic to describe that deep, dual listening to God and communities, and 84 to reflect the wonderful Psalm 84. In particular, verse 6; “when they walk through the valley of weeping, it will become a place of refreshing streams”. It is our prayer that we, as a family, walk and listen to the rural communities in Dorset and hear the weeping of those who do not yet know their loving father, and as we constantly hear what God is doing and the unchanging incredible message that we might find the courage to act in love and bring them together. And that weeping may be turned to joy. Missional listening!
Having the support and involvement of Rural Ministries right at the start of the missional listening project has been an absolute blessing. They have provided generous resources and financial support, and just as important for me, prayer and a sense of being part of the wider family of God.
We give thanks to the encouragement of Simon Mattholie, the board of trustees and staff at Rural Ministries and look forward to working closely together as the missional listening project becomes a reality.
Please pray for us as we make this move, that we will know God’s leading and love and find the courage to join in with what he is already doing. We, as a family, all feel called to this, Ben as a Baptist pastor, Ez a Baptist youth pastor, and Gracie (7), Anna (4), Bethany (2) and bump (due late Spring)!