Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Evangelistic Power of Listening

Chris Castaldo:
As a pastor of a local church, I enjoyed taking congregants to coffee and asking them to talk about the issues about the issues that most concerned them. It is remarkable how quickly folks will open up when they are given the opportunity. Honesty and vulnerability of a most remarkable quality would usually follow. In such situations, my job was simple: listen. Listen for patterns. Listen for underlying causes. Listen for regrets. Listen as through a stethoscope to identify the particular malady to which the good news of Jesus would bring healing.

I can give you dozens of examples from what I have learned on the hearing end from a decade of pastoral ministry, but let me tell you about an occasion when a friend applied her ear to my heart. It was weeks after my father's cardiac arrest when this friend of the family engaged me in conversation about how I was handling it. By that time, I was in way over my head, singlehandedly running the family business. The water line of anxiety rose with each day until eventually I started having panic attacks. Into this dark valley my friend appeared with her questions.

Although I didn't know it at the time, my friend was applying the pattern of Jesus. She asked probing questions—honest, genuine, humble ones. Her posture wasn't that of a teacher or sage preparing to impart wisdom; she was simply a friend listening attentively, finding cues that revealed my fears and insecurities. Finally, with some perspective on my angst, she winsomely applied God's promises of comfort and salvation.

In all of this, my friend not only cultivated gospel conversation; in a way that she couldn't have fully grasped, she was also God's instrument for cultivating my soul, as evidenced by my conversion, which followed shortly thereafter. Indeed, this is what makes such an approach to conversation so exciting: we prepare the soil, we plant the seeds, and sometimes—often when we least expect it—we get to witness the life-changing power of God.
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