Looking and Listening!
by Major Chick Yuill –
Here at Pasadena Tabernacle, we have responded with enthusiasm to the Territorial Commander’s call to discover a vision for the future. Commissioner Edwards is absolutely right in his challenge to his soldiers: we need to dream big dreams, to discover and cast a vision of the future that can be translated into strategic goals and plans that will inspire and energize the people of God for the next five or ten years. I believe in the visioning process!
I want to make a plea, however,that we add listening to looking as we move into the new millennium. Let me explain. The word ‘vision’ conjures up a picture of an explorer peering into the distance, trying desperately to discern the best route to the land yet undiscovered. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s a good analogy for the task of the Christian church. But a good explorer also listens; he listens to hear which way the wind is blowing, to hear the approach of an enemy, or to discern some otherwise undetectable change in the environment.
If we don’t learn to ‘listen’ we may well be ambushed on the way to the future. The winds of change are blowing hard and the ground is rumbling under our feet. In this post-modern age I hear the whirring of hitherto undreamed-of technological change; I hear the ominous thud of moral convictions being dropped; I hear the bleak wind of relativism, of existentialism, and the loss of long-held certainties; I hear the chants of strange religions– old and new–as men and women grow dissatisfied with the ‘closed universe’ of rationalism and seek for something to satisfy the soul; I hear the protests of disillusioned clergy who are finding that the old model of leadership–in which they taught the denominational tradition, pastored the flock, symbolized the sacred, and presided over rites of passage–is no longer working as the new millennium beckons. I’m going to keep on listening.
Now I can imagine the objections of some readers: ‘Visioning or listening–what does it matter. They’re just words, just figures of speech.’ I think not. Words have a life of their own and they take us in very definite directions. When we speak about vision, we inevitably emphasize the need for prediction and planning. Where should we be going and how do we get there? And that’s right and necessary. My point is that it is insufficient–perhaps even dangerous–by itself. When we understand the need to listen, we give proper place to preparedness. We realize that things are changing all around us and that we need to be ready to change, to adjust our course at a moment’s notice. Without that flexibility, we could discover that while we were following our vision, the world had gone in the opposite direction.
Here in Southern California we live on top of some of the most dangerous fault-lines in the world. The local newspaper even carries a weekly report on earthquake activity in the region during the previous seven days! The experts all seem to be agreed that the ‘big one’ will come sooner or later. What interests me is that they have forsaken the dubious science of earthquake prediction; there are just too many unknown factors. The authorities are now engaged in the much more practical work of earthquake preparedness. We can’t tell when the next significant tremor will be, but we can build new buildings and retro-fit old ones in such a way that the damage will be minimized. We can create an infrastructure that enables the emergency services to move into action when the inevitable happens. We can hear the earth rumbling around us and we’re getting ready for the shaking that will come.
So let’s learn from the geologists. Let’s make our plans as God directs us and let’s begin to reach for some big goals. But let’s also listen to the vibrations of a troubled and uncertain world so that we are prepared for whatever happens and ready to adapt our plans and adjust our course at a moment’s notice. We need vision; that will change the Army. And we need to listen; for then we might even change the world.