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When Meanings Collide

Examining the way Jesus communicated moves us into deeper conversations.

It would be difficult to underestimate the importance of communication in pastoral work. Beyond preaching, there are the tasks of leadership and care. But being human as we are, communication is often clumsy. The challenges of conversation are compounded by hidden biases and unrealistic assumptions. Every conversation is a meeting of meanings. That is, when we enter dialogue, we bring with us a worldview—a certain means of understanding the world. This informs our meanings that define reality—our perceptions of God, circumstances, people, and ourselves.

The potential for misunderstanding is great. In pastoral communication the single most significant tool is listening. We listen to enter into the other person's meanings, to discover where they come from, where they are, and where they need to go. Good listening does not come naturally. It has to be intentional. Good listening also trusts that every conversation is an opportunity to engage the truth of God that can ...

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