Category Archives: Listening


The most important skill needed for evangelism is the ability to listen. The most important skill needed for church leadership is the ability to listen. The most important skill needed for body life in the church is the ability to listen.

We focus way too much on what we’re going to say. We need to focus more on picking up on what others say.

The spate of celebrity suicides reminds us that there are hurting people that need someone to listen to them. So much violence, like the shootings at schools, could be avoided if people would listen to those who feel they have no voice. So many abuse victims could be protected if the people around them would listen.

How many problems in the church reflect a lack of listening? How many people fall through the cracks because we don’t hear what they need to say? How many young people are frustrated by their perception that the older generation doesn’t care about their situation? How many older people feel that their wisdom and experience is being cast aside in favor of the young?

People around us are dealing with much pain. They are dealing with much fear. They have guilt and regrets from the past. They have uncertainty about the future.

Listen. Truly listen to the people around you. Spend less time talking, more time listening. You may be surprised at the changes you’ll see.

What I never heard growing up

Abilene Christian University has been hosting its Summit this week. Besides getting to teach two classes on the work in Cuba, I’ve been able to spend some time talking with church leaders from different places.

Some of us were discussing the common tendency to bash one’s upbringing. Seems to happen a lot in church circles. Those of us present acknowledged that some people had had horrible experiences in churches of Christ, yet each of us had had very positive ones. As always, it seems dangerous to paint with too broad a brush when discussing any religious group.

We also talked about the tendency to say, “I never heard about _____ when I was growing up in the church.” As I thought about it, I remembered teaching some lessons when I was in my twenties that led one of my old teachers to say, “Tim, I don’t feel convicted by this.” What he was saying, I now see, was that he had taught about these new discoveries I had; I just hadn’t heard it.

So maybe that’s an appropriate saying. Instead of saying, “My church never taught ____,” it seems much better to say, “Growing up, I never heard ____.” Maybe it was taught, and I just didn’t hear it.

I didn’t get to hear Mark Hamilton last night, but someone posted on Facebook a quote from Mark’s talk: “We will not be held accountable for what our grandparents think the Bible means. We will be held accountable for what we think the Bible means and what we do about it.”

Seems to be a good attitude to have. Not worry so much about what others have said or haven’t said. Spend our time figuring out what the Bible says, and do our best to live it.

How You Hear

This week I got the student evaluations from the course I taught last semester at Abilene Christian University. That is, the evaluations the students did of me. The marks were outstanding. In some areas, they gave me a perfect score, every student saying I did an excellent job.

Now before you think that I’m trying to impress you, let me tell you that I wasn’t that impressed. You see, I’ve taught this course three times now, basically teaching it the same way each time. The first time, I got decent evaluations. This time they were off the charts. But the second time, I got hammered, to the effect that a couple asked why they didn’t have a more qualified teacher teaching the course. Ouch!

So when I say I wasn’t impressed, I’m saying I wasn’t impressed with me. Because I know that the difference in these three semesters has been the students. Students that come in ready to learn have a wonderful experience. Almost regardless of who the teacher is or what the teacher does. (Almost, I said)

That got me to thinking about churches. Could it be that the congregation’s attitude has a lot to do with the success of the preacher? Yes, of course, some men are gifted speakers who can reach almost any audience. But for us run of the mill guys, I’d say that much of how we come off depends on who is listening to us.

I love the way Mark presents the parable of the sower. The first word that comes out of Jesus’ mouth is “Listen!” Then as soon as the parable is finished, Jesus says: ““He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”” (Mark 4:9) Jesus repeats that phrase in verse 22, then says, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:24-25) [As Ray Vander Laan points out, the Greek says, “Look at what you hear,” for the Hebrew mind focused on concrete things, not abstract ideas]

So my word of advice for all of us comes in one single word: Listen!