My house has no front garden. You step out the front door and you’re on the pavement. Our living room window similarly opens out onto the street.
When people walk past you hear snippets of conversation. Arguing couples, people discussing their medication, parents moaning at their kids, teenagers gossiping about who got off with who.
I find it hard not to listen to the voices outside the house. Which I’m sure irks my wife when she’s trying to tell me something.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how much we do the same thing in church. Recently we had Shane Claiborne come to my church and talk about living ‘radically’. (That’s a word that is currently in vogue, will stay in vogue for a year or so, and will be in vogue again in about six years time – you get used to seeing things spin round again in Christian circles).
I’ve got nothing against Shane. He won me over and I went perfectly ready to find fault. But I do wonder whether we really needed to ship a guy in from Philadelphia to tell us about how to love the people around us.
We have people living sacrificially and working (hard) in our church. We have people going out day in day out to interact with a community that really doesn’t give a shit about what we believe. But these guys keep on going out and serving. What could they tell us about loving the people around us?
Or are we just used to them? Their voices are the ones we know, and we can just about hear tantalising snippets of conversation from outside the house.
I’ll give another example. Soul Survivor last year shipped in two speakers from down under – one Australian and one New Zealander. Again, nothing against those people, one was very good in what he said, one less so. But again did we really need to hear what was essentially very middle of the road commentary in an antipodean twang?
Or did the fact they’d travelled so far make the things they said seem more valid?
We do the same thing in workplaces as well. The place I just left chronically under-invested in an essential part of its business. Just before I walked out the door forever (dangerous, using that word I know, but hey) they got a consultant in. The first thing said consultant said was that this particular department was ridiculously small.
Helloooooo? That’s what several staff members had said over and over. Why does it take a voice from outside the house to be heard? Why do we overlook the wisdom sitting right next to us?
We chase after new knowledge. We hanker after hearing something new and exciting from an exotic speaker hailing from a foreign land. And we think we’re smart to track down these dispensers of wisdom.
But maybe we’re just so dumb we ignore the people in the room who have grown tired of trying to be heard by us.