There are myriad of ways to dampen the good news of the gospel with our attitude. One surefire way to do that is by not listening to the person. I think one of the reasons we do this is because we try to plan the conversation out in our head. We think, “If I say X, and they say Y, then I’ll say Z,” without realizing we should let the Holy Spirit dictate how the conversation is advancing. When this happens—whether intentionally or not—we are essentially shutting down the conversation because we have things to say and they just need to listen to us.
Sometimes the best thing we can do in evangelism is listen to the other person. I don’t mean to say our words don’t matter, since we all know they do. We know the gospel must be told. It must be proclaimed; people must hear the good news (Romans 10:14-17). The popular saying, “Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words,” is completely and utterly false. Do I understand the sentiment? Sure. Our actions speak louder than words (we must practice what we preach). However, our actions do not save souls—our words do. And it’s not really our words, but the words of God.
So yes, the words we speak matter. With that said, my point is sometimes we get wrapped up in what we want to talk about rather than hearing the response from the other person. We talk over them; we stonewall them by quickly responding to them when they’ve just begun to respond to us. We do a disservice to the gospel because the person is thinking, “Is this the way Christians act?” No, it’s not the way Christians should act when witnessing. We should humble ourselves, listen to what they have to say, and preach the gospel—using real words. Words of compassion, conviction, and unrelenting grace.
Moreover, listening shows that we want to know the person’s story. It makes them feel more comfortable with opening up and describing their life. That’s what we want, right? We want to witness to the gloriousness of the gospel, and one way we do that is hearing about other people’s lives—the strife, turmoil, and anguish—and pointing them straight to the gospel. We get to tell them the good news they’ve needed to hear (or the good news they’ve continued to ignore)! That’s the end game. But you can’t get there, usually, if you don’t turn your listening ears on.
So . . . listen.
This blog was adapted from my book, Gospel Smugness: Displaying Christlike Character in Evangelism.