October 5, 2016
How we respond to questions about God, faith and the Church depends on our goals.
Do we want people to know Jesus or to know
Jesus? If knowing about Jesus is our goal, then we should just give people the answers to their questions.
But if our goal is for people to know Jesus, experience his love and enter into relationship with him, we must listen to them and guide them as they encounter Jesus, discover answers and grow in relationship with Christ. Instead of giving people the answers to their questions, great evangelists use genuine listening to guide people to the answers.
I was recently a part of an Evangelization training that began with listening. As part of a listening workshop, the presenter shared four basic listening concepts:
- Ask: ask open-ended questions that encourage an explanation over a one word answer
- Reflect: reflect back what you heard to clarify and assure understanding
- Affirm: affirm them for sharing, positively reinforce what they said, thank them for sharing
- Options: ask permission to share some ideas and help someone own his or her choices
When she and her husband demonstrated a personal example in which they used these skills, they made it look so easy. Then we broke up into pairs and she invited us to practice. All the participants found it to be much harder than it looked, and we realized that as “church leaders” we were quick to give solutions and slow to really listen.
Our tendency can be to assume that we understand and offer an unsolicited solution to the problem.
They would not have asked us if they didn’t want our advice, right?
But most of the time, people simply want us to listen as they come to a solution on their own.
To become great evangelizers, we have to begin by becoming great listeners. Next week, we will explore how Jesus demonstrated this crucial piece of the evangelization puzzle during his own life on Earth.
Chris Benzinger is the director of mission and evangelization for the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. He founded the Lifeteen Summer Camp Covecrest, and he lived and worked there for 10 years.