Listen With Active Ears
How can you shine as a bright light in your neighborhood? We’re examining that question in Wednesday’s Word to start the new year.
First, we need to get out of the “Christian ghetto.” That doesn’t mean forsaking church or being less involved in your Christian circles; it just means actively looking for opportunities to be increasingly involved in your neighborhood.
Second, you need to pray for eyes to see people as people. Don’t view and treat people as functions or pieces to assist you in creating a stress-free and enjoyable day. Remember that your neighbors, baristas, bus drivers, and shop owners are human beings created in the image of God—with a heart, an eternal destiny, a story, a desire to be loved, legitimate fears and concerns, and hopes and dreams.
And then, pray for ears to listen for entry gates.
Sharing the gospel in your neighborhood doesn’t mean making self-righteous declarations to disinterested sinners, never revisiting the relationship after you drop an evangelistic bomb and leave.
Are there times when you must share the truth about hell and damnation? Will there be moments when an unsaved neighbor disagrees with the verdict that their nature is sinful and their lifestyle displeases God?
Of course, there’s a time, place, and necessity for that style of evangelism or that topic in conversation. But can I say this? Just be a normal person! Don’t sneak up on someone, corner them, and start talking to them in a language they don’t understand about ideological concepts for which they have no frame of reference.
You’ll be able to tell rather quickly that they want to get away from you at that moment rather than listen to the Good News you have for them!
Instead, I think asking questions is one of the most powerful forms of evangelism.
To start, asking surface-level questions allows you to get foundational data about who they are and their lifestyle. This also shows your neighbor that you are interested in them, interested in what interests them, and desiring to know them better.
In a society where people care solely about themselves and want to move on to the next task as fast as possible, simply stopping, listening, and asking questions will be a bright light in their dark social reality.
Once you get to know a person at the foundational level and have developed a relationship of trust, you can ask more profound questions—questions they probably haven’t even asked themselves. (We’ll dig into this more in two weeks!)
Here’s the most important concept: don’t just ask questions; listen actively for entry gates.
An entry gate is a key part of their story that they reveal, often unintentionally, that will allow you to advance the conversation deeper in the future. Since every human being is spiritual, they will desire to talk about spiritual things. Entry gates provide that opportunity for you to weave gospel truths into the conversation in a way that is personally applied to their life.
Maybe in their story is a theme of rejection and a craving to be loved unconditionally. Perhaps they reveal that they are struggling with emptiness because they’ve tried to satisfy their soul with created things that can never fulfill the longings of their heart.
Maybe their past contains religious hurt and disappointment, but they still desire some form of faith in a higher power. Perhaps they are riddled with guilt of failure or anxiety about the future and are looking for peace of heart.
People love to share the details of their story with anyone who will listen, but you’re not anyone—you have been entrusted with the one answer that everyone needs: the Good News of the person and work of Jesus Christ!
Entry gates will always be there in conversations with your neighbor. Do you love them enough to take the time and make the investment to listen with active ears?
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
(2 Timothy 4:1–2)
A Prayer for Today: God, would you increase my affection for the people around me who don’t know you? Would you provide me with opportunities to communicate the beauty and truth of the gospel with them, and would you give me intentional, proactive listening ears when they share about themselves? Please give me your eyes to see them, your ears to hear them, and your heart to love them. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Paul David Tripp
Discussion Prompt for Children
Why do you think listening is a good way to show people love? How can something as simple as listening be a way that God can use us to show people his love for them?
1. As you think about where God has placed you in your circle of influence (your neighborhood, job, etc.), what might be a few questions you could ask others that would be a bright light in their dark social reality? How might those questions give you opportunities to get to know your non-believing friends and begin to build a platform or trust between you and them over time?
2. Regardless of how you might assess your own listening skills, we all have room to grow in this area. Take some time right now to pray and ask God that he would improve your listening skills, and give you a heart for others that you might be intentional in listening to others as they share their life details with you. Pray that you’d be proactive at discovering unique entry gates that God would use for you to weave gospel truths into your conversations in a way that is personally applied to their life.
3. In what specific ways can you grow in your love for the people God has placed in your life? Ask the Lord to give you an increased affection for others in ways that you begin to sacrifice your own time and make the investment to listen with active ears.