Listening is essential to building relationships. At The Loved Bible Project, we’re currently in the midst of a series called BLESS from the Saturate podcast, and L stands for Listen. (You can listen to the podcast here.) The BLESS series breaks down 5 key ways in which we can intentionally build relationships and establish regular rhythms with the people in our lives. This is important as we consider Step 5 of The Loved Bible Project process: Invest and Invite. While it may be easy to Give Away a Loved Bible (Step 4) or simply drop it off somewhere, it can be stretching to walk alongside someone who God has put in our paths. But as we grow in loving God, loving his Word, loving people, and making disciples, God is faithful to guide us when we step out in obedience.
A compelling way to love people is by intentionally listening to them. Who’s in your life that wants to be heard? Who can you care for simply by listening? Who can you “see” with your ears? As our team went through this series, we noted several impactful takeaways.
There’s an important link between listening and asking good questions. Great listening requires a genuine curiosity about people. Observe them, then ask questions.
Jesus asked questions and follow up questions. For example, with the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus listened carefully and asked questions to draw out her heart. He often said just enough intrigue and to probe. He listened with love, patience, and wisdom. True listening requires humility, creating a safe place for others to open their hearts.
So how can we do this in our everyday rhythms? Begin by looking around you. Observe the people you see; it could be the barista, a colleague, a neighbor, or someone at the park. Have a curiosity about them, then ask a genuine question based on what you’ve observed. Let go of your assumptions and really see them.
Listening is a skill we need to continually practice. As we listen to the Holy Spirit and to others (often simultaneously), he’ll guide us to ask questions that probe into the heart.
As you’re listening to others, there’s a dual-listening going on. Tune your heart into the promptings of the Holy Spirit, asking him to guide you in asking questions that will draw out the other person or reveal their heart. Ask the Spirit to show you places to probe, and ways to build trust. Listen to the Spirit as you listen to the person in front of you, and you’ll hear the opportunities to really love that person and share God’s love with them. Be freed from the pressure of having to perform or impress, and simply ask yourself, “Who do I need to listen to?”
Truly listening is not just trading monologues, but engaging in real interest in the other person. Maybe that acquaintance at the gym has a tattoo – ask about it! Tattoos are so often a door into someone’s story, and people are often eager to tell it.
Remembering is an important part of listening. After a conversation, make notes about important things and follow up.
As you listen, make note of what they say and resist the urge to jump in and share your own story. Follow up the next time you see him or her, and be legitimately okay if they don’t ask you questions back. Remember, listening requires humility and selflessness.
The more open we are to listen and learn, the more likely people are to be open as well. This is huge when building trust, developing honest relationships where the Good News of Jesus can penetrate someone’s unique situation.
While you listen to someone’s unique story or experience, continue to ask pointed questions and accept the invitation to learn more about the person. Listening lays the foundation to build relationships with the people in our lives. This is how we can love people and make disciples, investing time and care in the highs and lows of their lives. Theologian Francis Schaeffer was known to say, “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first fifty-five minutes asking them questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth.”
“If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first fifty-five minutes asking them questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth.”Francis Schaeffer
Who can you listen to today? How can you begin to ask good questions as you listen? Have you recently had a good or bad experience with being listened to? Please share in the comments below so we can learn together and pray over these discipleship opportunities!
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