The Power of Listening

11:48 am persuasion, soul-winning

What is the most effective way to communicate the gospel?  One model emphasizes arguing, proving and defending.  Another, suggests listening, questioning and empathizing.  To be sure, these two approaches are different.  Both may be worth knowing and using.
Why Do We Resist Change?
Research has given us a couple of reasons why people resist change or persuasion.  The first is confirmation bias.  This occurs when people seek out information that confirms a belief and outright reject anything that conflicts with it (A Lesson In Listening, Christianity Today, June, 2017, p. 42).  The second is identity protection cognition.  This occurs when people’s defense mechanisms kick in when they feel their identity and core values are being threatened and it can lead them to subconsciously resist information that conflicts with their beliefs (Ibid. p. 43).  Both of these responses represent psychological ways of protecting ourselves from ideas or concepts that we have not already approved or that would produce significant change in our lives.  We resist persuasion in order to maintain identity and beliefs that we have already accepted and validated.  A third reason why we resist change/persuasion is that sinful conduct hardens our hearts against the truth of God’s Word.  Heb. 3:12-13, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  Sin is deceptive and it causes us to resist change in God’s direction.  This produces a spiritual blindness that must be overcome by the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:4).
The Power of Listening.
James 1:19-20, encourages us to be good listeners. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”  Good listening skills are important in soul-winning.  Consider the following thoughts:
1.  Listen with the intent to understand.  Listen more than you speak!
2.  Ask questions.  Asking questions prevents accusations (which put the person you are communicating with on the defensive) and it produces thought (the person must now respond which shifts the responsibility back to them).
3.  Show empathy.  Empathy involves the idea of putting ourselves in the place of the other person to really understand how they feel and how they think about their present circumstances.
4.  Be patient.  Sometimes we get impatient whenever someone resists our presentation of the truth.  Persuasion is a process.
5.  Be kind, gentle, and loving.  There is no need to get angry.  Watch becoming upset or defensive.  Preach the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
6.  Practice self-control.  James emphasizes the necessity of controlling one’s tongue to demonstrate mastery of self.  This is essential in soul-winning.
Love and listening will go a long way to help persuade others that God’s way is best for them.  We can only do our part and then the person who hears God’s word must have a good and honest heart that is receptive to God’s will.

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