How will They Hear if We Don’t Listen? 1

This is one of my favorite book titles. I was a seminary student when asked to read this work on the role of listening in evangelism. Though just listening to others will not bring them into the Kingdom, it is vital to making disciples.

A one-size-fits-all method of evangelism was not the way of Jesus or the early disciples. Study how He conversed with Nicodemus (John 3) and the woman at the well (John 4). And Philip’s approach to the Ethiopian (Acts 8) varied greatly from Jesus’ example.

I frequently hear that one of the reasons people do not share their faith is because they don’t have enough knowledge.

I am afraid to share for I do not know enough information.

But I sometimes wonder if the truth is more like:

I do not want to share because I do not want to listen to people. Or I do not want to share because I do not know how to listen to people.

We (in the West) live in a society that strives for efficiency. Time is more valuable than money. Production is more important than process. Information dump is more important in evangelism than correct understanding. Canned approaches are king, rather than contextualized tools. After all, aren’t we just called to preach?

Paul tells the Colossians to “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:6, ESV).

The answering of each person assumes the occurrence of an understanding on the part of the evangelist. It assumes conversation and interaction. The provision of answers demands that questions and critiques are being raised and known.

How does one have enough information to share, Paul? How does one know what to say?

When God opens a door for the gospel (Col 4:3) to be shared with clarity (Col 4:4), watch how you live (Col 4:5) and speak with people (Col 4:6). Then you will know how you ought to answer them. The application of knowledge will come from hearing them in the moment. You already know Him and His Word and are guided by His Spirit.


Have other questions about evangelism? Need a resource for your church? Check out my book Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions.

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