“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
Here it is—our marching orders from Jesus Himself. This is the reason we come together as a church and organize ourselves for service … to share the everlasting gospel with the world, teaching them and making disciples.
Embedded in the Great Commission is the need to communicate. Consequently, in this issue we are going to talk about how we can become better communicators so we can be as effective as possible in sharing the good news of Jesus.
We have some extra communication challenges in today’s world we didn’t have just 20 or so years ago. The majority of people I observe now have smartphones. This means they can get their email, browse the internet, watch TV or movies, text, look at social media, or play games 24/7 on their phone. If you just watch the behavior of most people today, they can’t sit a second without pulling out their phone and becoming glued to it.
Many people think they are multitasking when they are on their phones. They believe they can be present and active while at the same time engaging their smartphones. Unfortunately, studies have debunked this and the truth is that we can’t multitask. While other articles in this issue of OUTLOOK will focus on building our communication skills, I want to focus on what I consider to be one of our great deficiencies in communication: listening.
Have you ever been in conversation with someone and your mind was somewhere else? I have done that a few times with very important people in my life. I know I discouraged them when they realized I wasn’t following their conversation closely.
In the Bible one of the most sobering warnings we find throughout the books of Daniel and Revelation is “To him who has ears, let him hear…” This is simply imploring us to truly be alert to what the Word of God is telling us and how He is leading in our lives. So not only do we have a need to be better listeners in our interpersonal relationships, but also in our walk with God.
Two ears, one mouth
So, let me ask you some rhetorical questions about your listening skills:
Do you set your phone down and put other distractions away when you are with people in your life where communication is critical? With your spouse? Your children? While at church? When opportunity arises to be a witness?
Do you find yourself “in the present” when you need to be in an acute listening mode?
Do you find yourself forming answers in your mind to what someone is sharing with you instead of just being a patient listener and hearing them out?
Do you often find yourself offering quick fixes to what someone is sharing with you?
Do you ask clarifying questions instead of trying to be a mind reader?
Do you keep good eye contact with those who are speaking with you?
Are you attentive to the feelings of those communicating with you?
Do you ever find yourself having selective hearing? Listening to what you want to listen to and ignoring the rest?
These are just a few matters to consider in being a good listener, which I believe is the foundation of good communication.
May all of us have “ears to hear” the important communication we need to absorb to be fully engaged with the people God has put in our life and especially to hear the Lord speaking to our hearts.