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Revitalized Churches Start Listening

*Editor’s Note: In this series on church revitalization, Adam Jones, senior minister of Connect Christian Church in Carl Junction, MO, walks through important steps a declining church can take. Revitalization requires renewed leaders and a rediscovery of family. In this article, Jones explores the need to calm down and listen.

When my son was four years old, my wife went to a weekend retreat with a bunch of high school girls. And she left Andrew and me home. By ourselves. To figure out how to survive on our own.

As the church van pulled out of the parking lot, I looked down at my son who was smiling up at me, as if to say, “What kind of adventures do you have in store for us???” In that split second, I flipped through my mental notes: My wife was gone. I had my son for the weekend. And I had no clue what to do.

So, I said what any self-respecting dad would have said. “Let’s rent movies and eat pizza!”

We made our way to the local video store and began to wander the aisles, looking for just the perfect movie. If you’ve ever tried to choose a movie with a 4-year-old, you know exactly how difficult it can be…and you know the importance of setting boundaries to narrow down the choices. I didn’t know any of that, but I was definitely about to learn.

I showed him the children’s section and patiently waited for him to choose. Instead, he first wanted to see what else the store had to offer. Wanting the evening to go well, I allowed him to look while knowing that he would ultimately come back to the kid section.


“Wanting the evening to go well, I allowed him to look while knowing that he would ultimately come back to the kid section.”


Instead of coming back, however, he began growing increasingly excited about all his options. He made a lap around the store, followed by another, and then another. With each lap, he was increasing in speed and volume. Eventually, he was running through the aisles, squealing, laughing, and having the time of his life.

Looking around the store, it was obvious the other shoppers weren’t enjoying it as much as he was, so I inserted myself to slow him down.

“Andrew, slow down.” He made another lap.

“Andrew, quiet down.” He raced past me again.

“Andrew, seriously buddy, you’ve got to stop.” He squealed as he dodged me.

By this point, I had had enough. I squatted down and waited for him to turn the corner again. As he did, I snapped, “Andrew! Stop it!” and I grabbed him as he tried to squeeze past.

He wasn’t mad or sad or any of the reactions you might expect out of a 4-year-old. Rather, he took a step back and said, “Dad, calm down.”

I did not calm down.

He said, “Seriously, dad, just calm down.” I got more upset.

So, he stepped back, held his arms out, looked around the store at all the other customers (who were definitely watching us by now) and called out, “Can someone calm my dad down? My dad just needs to calm down!”

The store erupted in laughter. My face burned in embarrassment. And we went home without renting a movie.


“Can someone calm my dad down? My dad just needs to calm down!”


It’s hard to know how to respond when your four-year-old, who isn’t calming down, tells you that you need to calm down. Yet do you know who does have the right to tell me to calm down? It’s God. Pause. Calm down. Listen. Because sometimes I’m the one running laps and making noise when I’m supposed to be leading a church.

Thinking back over that moment in the video rental store, I am reminded of a moment in the Gospels when Jesus stood on a mountaintop with three of his closest followers: Peter, James, and John. In that moment, Jesus was transfigured right before their very eyes, and Moses and Elijah appeared with him, leaving the three friends at a complete loss for how to respond. James and John were frozen in indecision. But Peter got excited and started talking faster than he could think. “Let us put up three shelters,” he told Jesus, “one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” The Gospel of Luke explains simply that Peter “did not know what he was saying” (Luke 9:33, NASB).

To be honest, it wasn’t a terrible response. I mean, when Jesus does something spectacular, it is always a good time to pause and soak it in—and Peter wanted the moment to last as long as possible. Yet, all of a sudden, a cloud covered them, and the voice of the Father thundered, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This is nearly exactly what the Father spoke when Jesus was baptized. And then God followed it up with a message I need pretty much every day:

“Listen to him!”

Peter had missed the meaning of the moment, and in doing so, he had reverted to considering what he could do to control the moment. And God’s response was—to paraphrase it—“Calm down, stop talking, and just listen to Jesus!”


“God’s response was—to paraphrase it—’Calm down, stop talking, and just listen to Jesus!'”


How many times have you or I been guilty of Peter’s headlong rush into saying what we think instead of pausing to listen to Jesus? How many times have we missed recognizing what Jesus was doing because we were too busy preparing in our own way and pursuing our own thing? If our churches are to experience revitalization, we’ve got to pause, calm down, and get good at listening to Jesus.

Maybe Jesus is wanting to do something spectacular in your midst, but first you need to repent of doing all the talking or of preparing for the wrong pursuit. Maybe you need to consider these next steps:

1. Close your mouth and open your ears.

Every week, I deliver sermons, I teach lessons, I answer questions, I counsel couples, I lead staff. I talk. A lot. And I would assume I’m not the only preacher with this kind of rhythm.

Talking isn’t the problem. The problem comes when talking replaces listening. When you talk, you hear your voice, your plan, and your wisdom. But if you’re leading God’s people, your voice, your plan, and your wisdom will never be enough. It’s time to close your mouth so your ears can hear the voice of God again.


“It’s time to close your mouth so your ears can hear the voice of God again.”


2. Exchange your standard for God’s standard.

I have a high standard for myself, my family, and my church. I expect a lot of our church staff and volunteers. I set lofty goals and a sometimes-relentless pace. But when I close my mouth and open my ears to God’s voice, I am forced to confess that my standard is all too often focused on me. I tend to want to impress people with my leadership, my preaching, and my results while God has never been concerned with those things.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3, NIV)

Join with me in reassessing and repenting of your former standard so you can take up God’s standard. If your church will experience a revitalizing movement, it will be because you preach and lead for his name’s sake.


“If your church will experience a revitalizing movement, it will be because you preach and lead for his name’s sake.”


3. Trade your busyness for God’s effectiveness.

There was a time in my life when I averaged 60-hour work weeks. I knew it was too much, but I couldn’t stop because obviously no one else could do things as well as I could, right? Remember, I had high standards to maintain, and there was no time to rest.

However, when I finally stopped talking and started listening, I heard God call me to a different standard. As I repented and adopted a more sustainable rhythm, I discovered that I am actually a far more effective leader in 45 hours than I was in 60. I guess my son knew something I didn’t know after all. Sometimes we do just need someone to look us in the eye and say, “Will someone tell him to calm down??”

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