Letters to the Family of God

by Joe Franzone | February 17, 2022 | Pastor's Blog

Family of God - Website

February 17, 2022


Everyone should be quick to listen.

                                      James 1:19


Dear friends,


We have been keeping our minds fixed on personal evangelism in these past few Letters to the Family of God. We have learned something needs to be said. We know what it is, the Gospel, and we know we have power from God to say it.


We also learned if we are to understand the people we speak with better, we will need to understand the truth of God's word better. Therefore, learning and speaking are necessary parts of evangelism, and so is listening. It is here where our independence can be a barrier to personal evangelism.


Listening well can be difficult. Phrases like Let me finish, You don't understand, and You’re not listening to me are among the most common lines used in many conversations. Shouting and screaming is fairly common practice. Perhaps in wanting to make sure our voices are heard; we have forgotten how to listen to what others are saying.


In her book, You're Not Listening: What You're Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy, she writes of a group of famed writers and actors from the 1920s who routinely had roundtable talks at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan. These were some of the sharpest wits of their day and they would joust and jest with such elegance that newspapers would record and print the lively exchanges. Their chats captivated the nation and continue to shape our idea of humor.


What most did not know, however, was that many of the regulars at the Algonquin were lonely and depressed. One writer attempted suicide three times; another went through a mountain of broken relationships. Part of their problem was that no one in these discussions really listened. They were waiting patiently for a slight break in the banter and then would inject their bit. They were listening for pauses, not to hear what others were saying but to be ready to say what they wanted to say. They were more interested in talking than listening.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on this, says there is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening only waiting for a chance to speak.


Today, it is a common thought to be assertive and let your voice be heard. Therein conversations can be nothing more than listening only to be heard and not listening to understand. Listening only to be heard is not helpful in personal evangelism.


Listening connects us to the life of the person. Genuine listening happens when we allow ourselves to be moved physically, emotionally, and intellectually by what a person is saying to us. No surprise Jesus, Himself would show all kinds of emotions when listening to others. He was listening perfectly, and as a result, was reacting perfectly.


Listening like this is a skill that takes practice to become capable. It takes baring ourselves to a variety of people and dropping any hidden motives, personal convictions, or framework which would tempt us to guide the conversation to where we do not have to think deeply about what they are saying.


Dropping those supports can seem a bit of a risk because we open ourselves to uncertainty and unchartered words. We might hear things we don’t want to hear—for example.

UCLA’s Brain and Creativity Institute ran fMRI scans on subjects with inflexible political views and discovered that when the subjects’ opinions were challenged, the same portions of the brain light up as when someone is being chased by a bear. When you suddenly feel your only options are to fight, flee, or freeze, you probably won’t be able to attend well to what someone is telling you.

Inflexibility and assumptions in our listening are like earplugs. They make us quick to speak instead of slow to speak (1:19). To not listen attentively to a person while we are evangelizing is to dehumanize. Bad listening reduces another person, while good listening is mindful, they exist and therefore they matter. Our love for God began with listening to Him. The beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them.


Jesus did not listen to people to have something to criticize. He listened because He had something He wanted them to hear. He loved by listening. When we speak to others, we have something to say, and part of what we say has no words at all.



May God help us all to listen well.

Pastor Joe