There’s a side to evangelism we all understand. It’s the side where, by the Holy Spirit’s power, we proudly and plainly proclaim the gospel message. We open our mouths and share the words of life that have the ability to alter one’s destiny for all eternity. This is what we generally associate with evangelism and rightly so.
But there’s another side to evangelism, a side that’s often overlooked, and often to the detriment of our individual and ministry evangelistic effectiveness. It’s a skill, an art form, but one that’s becoming increasingly crowded-out in our communication-saturated society. It’s the lost art of listening.
In our networked world, everyone now has a platform, and everyone’s voice is vying to be heard. I can guarantee you, at this very moment, your Twitter feed and Facebook wall are overflowing with articles, editorials and the opinions of others. We’ve become a people inundated with information … communication overload has become the norm.
What isn’t normal these days? Quietly, attentively and sincerely listening to someone talk—and teaching your church how to listen. Trust me, when we commit to listening, people will take notice. Doing something so strange and foreign and actually countercultural makes an indelible impact.
So how does this apply to evangelism?
What do Nicodemus, the woman at the well and so many others Jesus encountered and evangelized in the Gospels have in common? They each had a conversation with Christ. And to converse with Christ, they needed their turn to talk, which means Jesus actually stopped and listened to them.
Nobody—past, present or future—deserves to have their “say” in the King of king’s presence. But He listened, and His listening was an important part of the evangelistic equation.
Consider also Philip’s evangelistic encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). When you read that account carefully, you see that Philip didn’t just go up to this man and recite the four spiritual laws. Instead, he stopped and listened to what the Eunuch was doing, he invested in learning where the man was at. And because he did, he was all the more effective in sharing the gospel with him.
Now, if listening played a part in Christ’s evangelistic example, and we see its continuation in Acts, shouldn’t we cultivate it both personally and in our churches, as well? We need to rethink our approach to evangelism by recognizing that listening precedes our sharing of the gospel.We need to open our ears as well as our mouths when we evangelize and appreciate the necessary connection between them.
Listening is an investment that yields an eternal return when we see its value as Jesus and Philip did. Commit to hearing the human heart in front of you unlike ever before, and watch as the Lord uses it to change the world one life at a time.