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Outside Voice

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Recalibrate Your Tribe to Grow

One of our kids was loud. When this particular child was quite young, Mrs. Kirkistan and I spent lots of time distinguishing an inside voice from an outside voice. This particular person (not naming names) did not sort out the difference until a certain age had been reached. But then it became clear to [Child X] why you might not shout your happiness with the world at 5am, for instance. This person still has the capacity to be heard—which I admire.

Patrick R. Keifert’s, “Welcoming The Stranger : A Public Theology Of Worship And Evangelism” (Minneapolis:Fortress Press, 1992) is a sort of outside voice/inside voice book for an organization. Yes, he’s a pastor writing to pastors. But his topic is much larger and dovetails with all sorts of human groups. He tells stories and redacts around the notion of how off-putting our insider language and idiosyncratic group behaviors can be to new people—those not of the tribe. It happens in a church. It happens in a family (I still do not have the courage to ask my new son-in-law what peculiar behaviors he notices when our family is gathered). It happens in a business. It happens on Minnesota interstates: drivers resent others trying to merge into traffic from an on-ramp. Is that peculiar to Minneapolis/St. Paul drivers or is it a Minnesota thing?

I’m enjoying Keifert’s book because he makes a compelling case for why we should listen to the stranger. He traces the roots of this listening to deep theological places and hints at how we were made for this very kind of interchange. But he also notes there are dangers in hearing the stranger (“Wait—what is this guy up to?”). He points out my unthinking refusal to let focus slip away from me as the all-consuming center of the universe. The end game is that I typically hear the stranger saying only those certain words that fit my view of the world. And we all have experience with that.

But hearing the outside voice in our family, church or company can help us get unstuck—especially when we don’t know we’re stuck.

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Image Credit via 2headedsnake

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Written by kirkistan

October 10, 2012 at 10:35 am

One Response

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  1. […] been helping a few clients think about their outside voice. Blogging has its own peculiar set of requirements that set it apart from the tone of a brochure, […]


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