Intentional Listening

Firstly, I would like to apologize for the delay in posting new content. Life is far from boring. It seems that there is always something new that demands our investment of both time and energy. Clinging close to Jesus Christ through spending time in His Word, serving Him through serving others, and having an active prayer life are all critically important for the Christian’s walk of faith. When life starts to pull me from every direction, I strive to take refuge in Christ by simply coming near to Him and taking comfort that He will in turn come near to me (James 4:8).

Recently, an interesting way of thinking emerged during some personal contemplation. As a result of some self-examination, I have been able to identify an area of improvement in my Christian life. This area of improvement can be summed up in one word: “listening”. When I say listening, I am referring to a multifaceted form of intentional listening towards: other believers, to non-believers when evangelizing, and most importantly to the Lord in prayer time. As illustrated below, intentional listening is paramount for maintaining, developing, and fostering meaningful relationships with others and, most importantly, with the Lord.

Personally, I sometimes unknowingly become very talkative among my family members, friends, as well as towards other fellow believers. James 1:19 instructs us to be, “…quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”. What I have come to realize in my own life is that I am often too quick to voice my opinion on a situation without intently listening to what the other party has to say. Intently listening to fellow believers is also required so we can effectively provide support and encouragement to our brothers and sisters like the Bible commands us to do (1 Thess. 5:11). Building one another up is something that every believer should do out of obedience realizing that there truly is strength in numbers through fortified communities of believers acting as the Body of Christ.

Jesus calls for us to mirror the way He acted towards non-believers by expressing our love through actions and to use words if necessary. The initial stage of evangelism should be predominantly focused upon the non-believers directing their questions towards us. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us that we need to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry He constantly tangibly displayed His unconditional love and His far-extending mercy to everyone regardless of how consumed their lives were in sin. He was even labeled by many as a “…friend of publicans and sinners”(Luke 7:34, KJV). Jesus consistently reached out to those in need to the degree that people did not even know what to make of Him. In other words, He truly confounded the world through His infinitely deep level of love for His creation. Being called to be like Christ means that we too need to be striving to reach out to the unreached in our community even if it means leaving our comfort zones. In our own lives, we need to pique the curiousity of non-believers through our Christlike actions. Utilizing Christian jargon and ranting on deep theological topics towards non-believers is likelier to have the opposite intended effect in comparison to living out your faith and through intently listening to the opposite side.

In relation to the context of evangelism, intently listening to non-believers is phenomenally important. As Christians I fear that we may be wrongly approaching evangelism through a lack of intentional listening. Interestingly, absolutely everybody has some kind of reference point to which they base their worldview on, which then shapes their entire belief system. This reference point is usually based on the origins of the universe and to which we attribute our meaning/purpose in life towards. With this being said, it is tremendously important that we not only recognize this but that we incorporate this knowledge into our evangelism. We need to give others the opportunity to communicate what their reference point is so that we can accurately know their worldview. Generally, Christians are too quick to impose their moral standards onto non-believers while failing to get to the actual root. In order for evangelical Christians to be effective in their ministries of reaching the lost, certain foundations need to be shared. For example, God being both the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe needs to be established before any further ground is gained. Preconceptions and biases about Christianity that non-believers have also need to be both identified and addressed, which can only be accomplished through dedicating the time to intently listening. Without this crucial step, there will be a stalemate devoid of any real productivity and/or seed-plating. It is vital that both sides are on the same page in order to foster a meaningful evangelistic opportunity for the Christian.

Lastly, in the broader context intently listening is interestingly also instrumental to having a healthy relationship with God. Throughout prayer I feel that Christians (myself included) frequently fixate on solely speaking to God through making prayerful intentions, prayerful requests, prayerful thanksgiving, etc. Meanwhile, the integral side of listening to God is in turn being neglected during our prayer time. Like any relationship, communication should always be two-way, so why would our relationship with the Lord be any different? Therefore, listening to what God has to tell us is not only recommended but it is an essential part of our Christian Prayer Life.

Dear Lord,
I pray that as Christians we can all learn to listen more intently to others in our lives, especially when it comes to exhorting other believers, making the most of evangelistic opportunities, and through our personal prayer time with You. Help us all to realize the importance of listening and then consequently apply this edifying teaching into our personal lives to further your Kingdom.
In Jesus’ Powerful Name, I pray,
Amen.