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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Listen, just listen

Clergy shouldn't underestimate the power of listening

I cherish the plaque that hangs on my study wall. A gift from a former parishioner, it says: “A pastor is one who speaks to your spirit, listens to your heart, and understands what words can never say.”

What an awesome privilege it is to be a pastor—to walk with people through the “changes and chances of life,” listening to their deepest longings and their sighs too deep for words. Listening is a special calling, which dare not be second to anything we do in our ministry. The only other task equal to it in importance is preaching.

If I were to start over again, I’d make preaching and pastoral ministry the heart and soul of my calling. I’d work harder on sermon preparation, daring to believe, in Lutheran preacher and homiletics professor Paul Scherer’s words, that this is “to turn loose something God has never tried before: and he will never try again”—God’s word living, incarnate through me.


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December issue

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