Recently I had the privilege of hearing Cris Lowery speak on listening. Apparently I am one of the few Oklahoma Baptists to have not heard his famous talk about evangelistic listening. Man, have I been missing out!
It was at Spring Retreat at Falls Creek a couple of weekends ago now, for 18-24 year olds, that I heard the talk. Lowery, who is the state Baptist Collegiate Ministries director, talked about how most people today just want to be heard. So, as Christians, what an evangelistic tool we have with our ability to listen. That is, if we choose to listen.
I am guilty of this myself. In a conversation with someone, I will hear one thing they say, pick up on that and my mind will travel to a similar experience of my own, and before I know it, I’ve completely stopped listening to what it is they are sharing with me.
How can we truly relate to non-believers or how do we expect to build relationships with them if we are not willing to listen? Does it really matter if we have a better story than one we’ve just heard? In order to grow closer to people, we must listen.
Another valuable point Lowery made was that it isn’t very hard, most of the time, to get someone to talk about themselves. People love it! It’s a part of our makeup as a human being, we love ourselves. One point Lowery made was whether we voluntarily give up information about ourselves or not.
It’s easy to tell in a conversation in which you are listening, to whom you’re talking, what information they voluntarily share. Often times, they share a lot. When it comes to the touchy subjects or things they don’t wish to discuss, this is where the good listeners find who is willing to open up.
Do I care about what the people are saying? Do I want to hear them? Or am I just here to talk about myself? These were questions I asked myself while in the discussion. What if I am the only person who will take time out of my day and listen to what it is they are saying?
I thought about Jesus and how He listens to me talk ALL THE TIME. He is the champion of listening, and He doesn’t speak just to hear Himself talking. This made me want to imitate the Lord with a new fervor.
This is one of the simplest evangelistic strategies I have ever experienced. All I have to do to begin building a relationship is to simply listen. Lowery brought up other helpful tips in the art of listening, including a good firm handshake when meeting someone for the first time. Stand at an angle, not too close to the person you are talking to, but not too far. Make eye contact, but not the entire time.
All of these pointers to me point to one word that is key in building relationships with non-believers: intentional. They require an intentional spirit. We must intentionally listen, ask intentional questions, and seek an intentional relationship with our Savior.
Do we as Christians go out of our ways to make sure the lost world is heard, regardless of how worldly they may be? This is my challenge to myself and you this week: that you focus on listening rather than hearing your own voice.