But what if it isn’t? What then?
I’m convinced that with most people not everything is fine. And if they just had somebody they could talk to, they just might share where life isn’t so fine.
Christian — are you willing to be that safe listener? The older I get the more I’ve convinced that we need to spend more time and energy listening rather than telling.
Please don’t misunderstand me. The gospel needs to be shared. And that usually involves words! But listening, really listening, opens the door to sharing the gospel.
I love the blind singer Ray Charles’ statement when he says, “Most people take their ears for granted,” says blind singer Ray Charles. “I can’t. My eyes are my handicap, but my ears are my opportunity. They show me what my eyes can’t. They tell me 99 percent of what I need to know about my world. Because of my ears, I can communicate naturally and freely with people everywhere. I don’t have to find an unnatural way of expressing one of the most basic human instincts God has given us.”
Are you and I using our ears as God intended? Would you try an experiment with me this week? Ask five questions (that are non-threatening) of one of your unsaved friends — and let them tell a bit of their story! Here are some questions that I’ve found helpful.
How long have you been retired (if they are)? What hobbies are you engaged in? Please tell me a bit about your family. I’m sorry to hear about the divorce you went through — that must have been painful. What’s the best part of your job (if they are employed)? The worst?
I asked an almost 80-year-old tennis player the other day the following questions: “Steve, how long have you lived in this area?” [“About 20 years.”] “Really. Have you been able to find a good church?” [“No. We’re not religious.”] A little while later I said to him, “You know, Steve, I’m not really into religion.” [“You’re not?!”] “No. You see, I think religion is spelled D-O. It’s all about what you DO. And the problem is you never know what the quota is.” [“Hmmm.”] “I’m into Christianity and Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. It’s about what God has done for us.”
I wish I could tell you that the conversation ended positively, but Steve said, “Tell me why so many ‘Evangelical Christians voted for TRUMP!!??” I then just let him rant a bit. But I listened.
August 13, 2020 at 5:17 am
I try doing this, with varying degrees of success. There are two groups of people I pay special attention to. First are the unsaved, as you mentioned. I try to understand why they feel as they do about Christianity. Too often, when I tell other Christians what non-Christians are telling me, the response I get is something to the effect of, “They should just get over it, concentrate on what’s really important.” Wrong answer. Whatever is keeping people, or even one person, from entering God’s kingdom is of utmost importance. People have a problem with hypocrisy? They deserve to have that issue addressed. People have a problem with perceived or real injustices at the hands of Christians or those claiming to be Christians? They deserve to have that addressed too. People avoid Christianity like the plague because they’ve been treated badly in the past? “Just get over it already” is the wrong way to go.
The other group I’ve been listening to are the “Jesus followers”. By that I mean people who follow, or claim to follow, Jesus, but who hate to use the term Christian, or any other word that has become stigmatized these days. These people are so busy distancing themselves from mainstream Christianity, and publicly denouncing churchgoers as having a “Christian nationalism” agenda that they are sabotaging Christianity and any efforts we might be making to reach the unsaved.
These are the two groups I’m trying the hardest to listen to. The unsaved have a right to be heard, to have their concerns addressed, to know that when we call them friend, we mean it. And the disenfranchised also have a right to be heard. The damage they are doing to Christianity by constantly calling out everything they find wrong with the rest of us is something that needs, in a loving and Godly way, to be addressed. It’s this second group with which I struggle the most.
Sorry if I’ve taken this in a dozen unintended directions.
Dr. Larry Dixon
August 14, 2020 at 6:48 am
Bruce: You’ve made some excellent points. I believe part of our challenge is really listening to what the unbeliever is saying. I look forward to our study on Sunday! Blessings. Dr. D.