The Importance of Listening

When I prepare to share my faith with someone, I’m usually thinking about what I am going to say. This has got to change. I first need to prepare myself on how to listen. I need to seek to understand before working to be understood. I need to listen.

If I can get involved in a conversation with someone, then a few well placed questions or comments can really help bring out what is on their mind. If I can find out what this person is concerned about, perhaps God will help me to find a way to move that into a more personal and more spiritual area.

I find it amazing what total strangers will tell you if you ask. I was out with a group of coworkers last week and we went to a restaraunt. The waitperson was Doug. Doug seemed cheerful and friendly. I simply commented to Doug that he came across with a very positive view on life. Doug immediately told us that he has worked very hard over the last few years to overcome a lot of problems in life and be optimistic. I asked Doug what was it that helped him to stay so positive. What was his secret?

Doug then told us about his family background, his travels and even his spiritual searching. Through listening to Doug all of us at the table came to understand that while Doug believed in the person and principles of Jesus Christ, he was not yet born again.

Just making an observation and listening helped us to find out were Doug was relationally, professionally and spiritually in moments. I think it took less than five minutes. Doug came and went. He brought our water and the brought our food. Doug became a little curious about us. We were able to share with Doug very briefly that each of us have had a wonderful and life-changing spiritual experience with God. In fact, I told Doug, that it was the single most important thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I gave Doug a www.mostimportantthing.org card with my name (Jimmy Kinnaird) on it. I told him the next time you are on the web, look it up.

This is my relational approach. It starts out trying to make a connection with a person. The only way I know to do it is to make an observation and ask a question or two. This way of relating for me has not been that easy.

I want to make a confession. In the past, when I thought of personal evangelism, I thought of things like teaching or correcting or even arguing. I have done a lot of these things and frankly, have not gotten very far with people. People may have even prayed a sinners prayer with me just to get rid of me. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t see Jesus acting that way.

It is true. It is hard for me to keep my mouth shut. Especially when what the other person is saying is so wrong! Example: “I think that as long as each person is sincere in their belief, God will accept them.” Ohhh noooo!  Well what am I going to do? Should I start the argument or ask more questions? “Tell me, what is a sincere belief to you?” or “You have obviously thought about this for a while, how did you come to that conclusion?” Then, “What about the 911 terrorists? Their beliefs were certainly sincere or they would not have done what they did, but I don’t know many people who would say that God will accept them into heaven, do you?” Why or why not?  Questions for clarification and listen and pray.

I think eye contact, facial expression, body movement, posture, and vocal tone are all key in listening. Experts that I have read claim that 85% of personal communication is non verbal. Note how you carry yourself and how you look at others. Lean forward when listening and look them frequently in the eye. Smile and nod. Keep your palms open to them and your heart turned toward them. These simple gestures help everyone to keep talking. As long as they are talking, you will be able to listen and learn. 

I’m looking forward to seeing Doug again sometime. If I do, I am sure we will pick up where we left off. Maybe we will see him in heaven too. That is what I am praying for.

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About Jimmy Kinnaird

Jimmy started his ministry on the streets of the French Quarter of New Orleans leading a jazz band as a tool to witness for Christ. He has also been a church staff member, church planter, pastor, and Church Outreach Team Leader for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Recently, Jimmy served as Personal Evangelism Resource Coordinator on the Personal Evangelism Team at the North American Mission Board, SBC. He is currently pastor of Village Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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