Fruitful Listening in Evangelism
“There is a reason you are born with two ears and one mouth.” Growing up, I would give my mother frequent inspiration to remind me of this anatomy lesson.
When we talk about evangelism, we often emphasize what we should or shouldn’t say. While this is extremely important, our words might be ignored if we do not listen well. By showing others that their words have worth, you can show them they have value as an Image Bearer of our Creator.
As my mom would affirm, listening does not come naturally to me (and I don’t think I’m alone). Thankfully, others have demonstrated how to listen well. Below are a few practical thoughts on how to interactively listen:
Body language doesn’t always translate.
Sometimes our body can inaccurately communicate. By aligning your physical posture with your heart’s attitude, you can invite someone to be fully present with you.
Throughout a conversation, try to remember some details of what they share.
For example, if they mention their birthday, significant other’s name, hobby, etc., it can be used as a great next point of contact. If you forget something noteworthy, don’t pretend. Just ask!
Multitasking is a myth.
You can minimize distractions by placing your phone, book, or other devices off to the side to fully engage with them. This physical demonstration can showcase that you want to listen and give them your full attention.
Thank them for their vulnerability if they share something personal.
If they invite you into their thoughts about something trying, thank them for trusting you with that part of their story.
A few years ago, I shared something heavy on my heart with a friend. With care, he paid attention the entire time. After I finished talking, we sat in complete silence for what felt like decades but was much closer to two minutes. He sat there with an empathetic look on his face. After some time, he said, “I’m really sorry.” While our conversation didn’t end there, my friend dignified me by sitting in sorrow with me, knowing that there wasn’t an easy fix, and prayerfully choosing his words wisely.
While listening isn’t listed among the fruit of the Spirit, our listening can indicate to others that we follow Jesus by the way we interact with them.
The act of listening well is loving. Attentive ears require sacrifice for the other person as we lift our eyes off ourselves and to them. Listening well is joyful. Our joy multiplies as we obey God’s Word. In a culture of division, listening with love creates peace. Often when I am trying to attend, the Spirit shows me how impatient my heart truly is. Patience with the speaker invites them to share their authentic self. In my experience, one of the kindest things someone can do for me is to listen to me. Listening well in a world full of evaluative consumerism is a beautiful, good thing. Especially in difficult conversations, listening well demands a gentle demeanor. As we listen well, we imitate Jesus, who served others faithfully. Listening well requires self-control to “keep in step with the Spirit” as we tend to others.
By listening well to all people at all times, we are proactively preparing for our next evangelism encounter and caring for those God created. By His Word, we can trust that He is using these conversations for our good and His glory.
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