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Adam McHugh: The Listening Life

Adam S. McHugh, The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 224 pages, ISBN 9780830844128

The Listening Life is Adam McHugh’s second book; his first was Introverts in the Church. Both of these books have a common theme; they both focus on the subject of quietness. As others before me have pointed out, God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we speak. In this, his latest book, McHugh champions the cause of listening. He has served as a pastor, hospice chaplain, and spiritual director, in these various capacities he has spent a good deal of time listening and he believes that there is much value in it.

Adam S. McHugh

The book is comprised of an introduction, nine chapters, and an epilogue. Many Christian books have been written about listening to God, which is, of course, very important. McHugh too believes that listening to God is important but he advocates for other kinds of listening as well. In the course of the text he writes about: Listening to God, Listening to Scripture, Listening to Creation, Listening to Others, Listening to People in Pain, and Listening to Your Life. Listening is important. McHugh points out near the beginning of the book that God Himself is a listener. If God, the sovereign of the universe, listens we as His people ought to listen as well. One of the fundamental benefits of listening is that we learn.

The Bible is to be a place of encounter with God.

The author makes some interesting points in this book. For example, in the Introduction, he points out that listening comes first in life (page 9). Even before babies are born they can hear the voices of their parents while they are in the womb; after they are born they listen before they can speak (page 9). As listening takes first place in our natural life it should also be of primary importance in our spiritual life. McHugh points out that in order to be a Christian disciple one needs to listen (page 10). He says “Listening and obedience are inextricably, unabashedly linked, so much so that we can say that those who don’t act on what they hear have not actually listened” (page 16). He later adds that who we become depends in large measure on who we listen to (page 24).

Many of those who claim God does not speak today are motivated by fear.

Of particular interest to Charismatics is McHugh’s stance on listening to God. He is a Presbyterian minister but he is not of the opinion that God can only be heard in the Bible (page 59); in short, he is not a cessationist. He believes that God can speak to people today and that many of those who oppose the idea are motivated by fear (page 60). All of the means that God employed in Scripture to communicate with people (dreams, visions, etc.) are still valid ways for Him to communicate today (pages 61-62). McHugh further says that God’s language is that of faith, hope, and love, if we are committed to living in these God will speak to us (page 79). With regard to listening to God in Scripture the author tells us that scriptural revelation is more about revealing who than what, the Bible is to be a place of encounter with God (page 93).

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2017

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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