This is a guest post by Don Bennett has spent the past 12 years serving as a Pastor in different roles. Currently he serves as an Associate Pastor at the Meeting House (Oakville – Main Site), a Multi Site Church throughout Southern Ontario. His passion is to invest in people and engage in conversation. You can read his last post on this blog here
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”
- James 1:19
What I have been learning recently is that listening is key to being effective in any form of evangelism.
Questions to Ask:
Do we take time to really listen to people or do we just angle our way in to talk and give insight?
Do we feel the only way to be effective is to make sure the crisp gospel message is proclaimed?
This all seems to flow together, as i do feel the message has to be clear and understood but also that opportunities do arise within relationship to infuse this. People generally want to talk and have someone listen. I am beginning to believe its a human desire. I teach my children at home thedifference between listening to someone vs. hearing someone and this principal is the same. People want a listening ear. Its full of great opportunities, believe me.
Over the past five months I can’t count the times where people have opened themselves up in conversations. People who used to be very closed to the idea of discussions of a spiritual nature but when trust and listening occurs they open up to it. Two weeks ago I met with a person who spoke for an hour about their life and I felt in my heart, that they just needed to talk. When they finished I just thanked him for talking and asked if we could grab a coffee the week later. Now we are actively discussing who Jesus is and he is so open to praying together and sharing life. That started with valuing what he was sharing not how I was planning to respond.
Slow to Speak but Quick to Listen
Ok, so now some of you are thinking “yes this makes sense, and ya I do that”. But here is my question.
Do you listen to people or do you simply hear them?
Yes, there is a difference.
Dictionary – Listening
“to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing”
Hearing “to perceive by the ear”
Giving attention vs. Perceiving
I teach my kids they don’t just listen with their ears, they listen also with their eyes. When someone is speaking give them the attention they deserve.
As an evangelist you need to be a good listener to be effective in reaching people. Listening to their story is the most important element of the conversation. If people matter than prove it.
Too often I witness “Verbal Ping Pong” – Back and forth, thinking about what you want to say as the other person is talking and as they stop to take a breath you jump in with your comment and they look for a way to respond. I have seen too many evangelists do this very thing. If we want to make a relational investment in someone and see them come to faith, we need to prioritize relationship first.
On a flight home the other day to Toronto I sat down beside a girl in her twenties who has a lot of tattoos. I was totally tired after waiting in the terminal for four hours, but I decided to simply say “I like your tattoos”. For the next hour and a half she filled me in on what each tattoo means to her and the story behind it. Later that night I made a joke to my wife that this was the weirdest ice breaking conversation ever. But not only did she open up about her tattoos but about her life; being divorced, having a custody battle ongoing, about her work and life passions. I sat there and just listened. We landed and she thanked me for listening to her, I said I would pray for her as she had a rough season ahead. She broke down a little and said she felt no one really listened to her.
Note: She didn’t come to faith, she didn’t get involved in my church. She knows what I do, and she knew that I was going to be praying for her. I have no way of checking up on her. I trust God with this.
Again I’ll ask – Is listening hard? What can God accomplish if we use this skill?What I am saying is to literally sit quietly and let people talk, listen to them, and remember what they are saying. Value them when they want to just talk. The more people talk and you listen the greater the trust you establish to talk into their lives.
I encourage you to simply pray “God I pray for wisdom as I listen, I pray for an opportunity out of this time to share you with them.”
What is something that has helped you be a good listener?