The Importance of Listening!

Most people have one thing in common…they love to talk about themselves! For those seeking to reach the unbeliever in the marketplace of society, this is good news. In fact, if Christians would spend more time listening to those we are trying to reach before attempting to communicate the gospel to them, we would better understand the entry point into their life!

Every person, unless they have completely given up on any real meaning or purpose to life, is desiring to have an existential integration point with ultimate reality. This integration point can come in several different expressions from many different sources. However, most people love to talk, and since this integration point is what is at present feeding their need to have value, they will share it. Why is this important? Because if we actually ask and listen, in contrast just waiting our turn to pounce on them with the gospel, they will reveal the thing which gives them purpose or meaning right now! And this becomes important because it affords us the opportunity to engage them in a discussion within their present pursuit of value and meaning.

Francis Schaeffer, when asked about communicating the gospel in a post modern world, said out of every hour of discussion and witnessing with someone, he would prefer to give them the first 45 minutes and take only the last 15. This seems opposite of the loud mouth, shoot ’em up and man on the scene witnessing done by many. However, if we want to make our sharing relevant to the man before us, we must identify with their present journey in life!

Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be daunting and intimidating at times. However, because men in our society are so self absorbed, they are eagerly waiting to discuss self. And this willingness on their part is the greatest asset for us to be able to present the relevance of the gospel of our Lord Jesus to them!

Two years ago, I was seating on a train, traveling from Atlanta, GA to Clemson, SC. The Lord orchestrated that a modern witch doctor be assigned to a seat next to me. After asking about his life, of which he gladly poured out his frustrations, sorrows and pain, I was able to enter into a real life, rubber hits the road conversation about Jesus Christ. He went from hostile, to considering, to interested in a matter of one hour! Why? Because everything I discussed was relevant to what he was experiencing and had shared for the first 45 minutes of our time together. By letting him pour out his heart first, I was able to bring the gospel out of the ivory towers which he perceived it belonged to, and into the streets and gutters of his need. When he got up to leave the train at his destination, he smiled and said, “Thanks, I am really going to look into the message you have shared.” My heart rejoiced for the work accomplished and I immediately prayed for the one engaging him at his next divine appointment.

Let us fret not concerning how to bring up the gospel to strangers. Let us simply learn to ask, inquire and make the person in front of us comfortable to open up and share about themselves. When we do this, the hardest thing for us will be to pray and discern from the Holy Spirit which issue is most important in their life! On the streets, many voices are heard. However, there are few listeners. Let us genuinely listen and we will never lack an audience to share with!

Because of His Grace,
Terry

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