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Quick to listen

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

God wants us to be quick to listen for good reason. He knows that when we listen, we learn about our fellow human beings—who they are, where they are from, and what they have experienced. This information helps us love and serve them. This is especially true when we seek to share the truths of God’s revelation with those who have never heard them or have heard them incorrectly. To put it more simply: We are wise to listen when we evangelize.

This may be surprising to many Christians who believe that evangelism is all about talking. It explains one of the concerns I often hear: “I’m afraid I won’t know what to say.” Listening can help overcome this fear because listening not only demonstrates care and respect for a person but also goes a long way in informing what we say when we do speak.

This was brought home to me recently while I was filming a promotional video for upcoming worship resources. My videographer and I were walking the streets in search of people willing to answer the question, “How would you define a Christian?” I expected to hear a variety of answers. What I did not expect were the opportunities the Lord provided to converse with souls needing to be connected to their Savior.

There was Gavin—a young man who defined a Christian as “someone who believes Jesus is the Son of God.” He had been raised Roman Catholic but hadn’t been to church in years. However, he and his girlfriend had recently been talking about finding a church. We told him about two WELS congregations nearby.

Then we met Ryanna—a young woman with multi-colored hair, a pit bull, and a nose-ring sprouting devil’s tails. She confessed that she didn’t believe in God anymore and defined a Christian as someone who is “judgmental.” We asked what led her to this conclusion. She described attending a strict Christian school where she was told it was “wrong to watch movies” and that “pets don’t go to heaven when they die.” She was extremely friendly, but it was clear she had sworn off Christianity. However, she mentioned that her father had passed away just two weeks ago, and it had made her “think about these things.” I told her I would love to continue our conversation; she shared her number so I could set up a future meeting.

Then there was David. He defined a Christian as “someone who says one thing and does another.” He went on to explain that he was a liberal-minded, homosexual atheist. We listened for close to 15 minutes as he vented about the evils of anything Christian or conservative. He asked about us. I explained that I was a Lutheran pastor and my friend was a professional videographer. I told him I didn’t think there were enough conversations like the one we were having and that, if he would like, I would love to continue it. I gave him my phone number. He texted me later that night, thanking me for listening and asking if I would like to get coffee sometime.

Only the good Lord knows what might come of these conversations, but I was blessed to have had them. It reminded me that souls are out there, all around us, hurting souls, souls that need to be connected to Jesus.

The next time you encounter such a soul, perhaps the best thing you can do is . . . listen.

Author: Eric Roecker
Volume 110, Number 8
Issue: August 2023

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This entry is part 4 of 36 in the series editorial-comment

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