A Great Listener
“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both.” (Proverbs 20:12 ESV)
When Megan and I first interviewed at Chapel Hill, one of the things we did was sit down with Pastor John Thomas and got to know him a little. At the time I had no idea what his role was at Chapel Hill—besides that he was retired, but not really—but I very quickly picked up something about Pastor John: he’s a great listener. In other words, he’s an excellent counselor.
I’m not an expert at counseling, but in my experience much of it has to do with being a keen listener. Granted, there are psychological theories to grasp, methods to practice, and so on, but I have never been counseled better than by someone who is able to hear what I say, and even to hear what I don’t say.
So it made total sense when—once we arrived and I figured out who did what—I realized that Pastor John was in charge of training the lay counselors here at Chapel Hill. John has told me that the role is something he feels like he was made for, and I agree. And as people got to know him and his kind ear, I saw more and more come through his office doors for counseling, including myself. When you need to be heard, you go to a listener.
As a friend, I’ve also appreciated how honest John could be about his feelings sometimes. That’s part of being a good listener too, being able to “hear” oneself… to be self aware. Anybody who has been a friend of John has probably benefited from his transparency. It’s allowed me to get a glimpse of his sincere faith and his deep humility, and it makes me want to respond in kind.
Given all this, I was very sad to receive a resignation letter from John two weeks ago. But sitting down with him later and hearing his heart, I understand why. John is a good listener. And he had been listening to himself and to God, and he was hearing that it was time to go. He tells me that he feels great peace about the decision, and knowing John I do too.
One of the ironies of Pastor John’s calling to ministry is that he does not enjoy the spotlight. His preference is to simply sit with people and… listen. (Though I think he’s a darn good preacher). Yet, I don’t think he will mind it if we gave him our own thank-you’s for how he has served Chapel Hill. And maybe a nice big bear hug to go with that thank-you. But I think the best way to honor his ministry with us will be to learn from him and be good listeners ourselves… to be a “hearing ear” that the Lord has made.
Pastor John will be finishing up his time with us at the end of July. In the meantime, please love on him. Pray for this next season of his life as he spends more time with his grandchildren and with his wife. I know John will not stop being a minister just because he left his position at Chapel Hill, so pray for the people he will continue to minister to. And if you talk to him, listen to him. He’s done a great job listening to us.