The painful question that church leaders may sometimes have to ask is, ‘why don’t people listen to the encouragement that we bring to them?’.
It is a particularly good question because it is something the prophetic ministry has to engage with often. In the face of adversity and great difficulty, the encouragement to, ‘Fear not – because God is with us’ goes for the most part unheeded.
What’s going on?
It is easy to assume quickly that either the people do not trust what you are saying, or plainly they are not listening. That can raise insecurity in the leaders heart because after all, if you really are a leader then surely people should be following – and that starts with them listening to what you have to say!
But there is something of an answer.
If you are a good leader you will already know that in caring for those you lead, you also need to know some of the issues that they face in order to help them counter the pressure of culture, indifference or cynicism.
In the early days of leading the Israelites out of Egypt Moses walks into a towering wall of indifference and resistance. Moses had spoken to Pharaoh with the request for the Israelites to be given their freedom. It was met with great disapproval, and instead of releasing Israel, Pharaoh increased their workload dramatically. His venture was met with cold hearted disdain by the Israelites.
God doesn’t allow us to read between the lines of Scripture and come to our own conclusion about why the Israelites did not hang on Moses’ every word, he makes it very clear; “Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery”. (Exo 6:9)
Another version adds to the picture, ‘they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage’.
- Broken spirit
- Harsh slavery
- Cruel Bondage
These are things that some of the people in the church face today – and it’s why they may not be listening.
While not many in the Church face harsh slavery and cruel bondage in the way that the Israelites did in that day, they do nevertheless, often face unrealistic demands in the work situations that can be both harsh and cruel.
Some people don’t live in nice, cosy middle-class neighbourhoods like Church leaders, some of them face neighbourhood hostility, violence, intimidation and difficulty at the very time that pastors may be settling down to a time of quiet meditation in the book of Psalms!
The answer is in finding our own place in the historical narrative of Scripture. Learning to see things differently, and to remind ourselves to be different; “I am in a time of discouragement and seemingly cruel bondage to a circumstance, but I will listen, I will hear the encouragement God brings to me. Despite everything that happens – I AM going to listen to God, and those He sends me to help me”.
And if you are the one that is being sent to such a person, there is something that you can do – Ask God for wisdom!
Perhaps sometimes people are not listening because you are not giving very wise advice!
Don’t assume you will have wisdom – ask God!