I can still vividly hear my mother’s voice echoing down the hallway of our home, “Luke, I haven’t finished yet.” I ran away before my mother, Kathleen, ever finished giving me instructions. I’d hurry back with a few of the items she needed from me, only to realize I ran off before I heard the entire list. I wasn’t listening. And she let me know it.
You can blame it on selective hearing. You can say I was a kid. You could even argue active listening isn’t a strong “male” trait. But if I’m honest…I just wasn’t a good listener.
I’m still being reminded in ministry that if I don’t stop to listen from the Lord, I’m doomed to run myself short of participating in what Jesus is doing around me. I frequently catch myself running at first instruction, instead of stopping to hear everything God is speaking.
In his book, The Self-Aware Leader, leadership guru Terry Linhart calls a good approach to listening the “sprint-drift principle.”
Linhart notes that attack submarines employ a tactic when searching for enemy vessels. Submarines conduct a series of sprints interspersed with periods of drifting. When drifting, they float at three knots and are actually quieter than the surrounding ocean due to their sound-absorbent coating. When a vessel is heard some distance away, the sub will go very deep and sprint at 20 knots or more to get closer and ahead of the target. The subs do not sprint for long periods because they cannot listen well while moving fast. After a sprint, they drift again, listening for their objective.
Good ministry leaders recognize there are moments we need to move quickly. But, there are times we need to slow down and listen for our objective. Clarify your calling. Reassess your status. Re-engage your target goals. Listen to the voice of Jesus. If we run off to action before we listen, that’s a recipe for trouble.
Do you schedule times to “drift?” Do you understand your ministry objective? Never let the “sprint” of ministry be an excuse to abandoning the essential discipline of listening to Jesus.