Sunday, March 24, 2013

Listening: An Essential Ingredient in One-on-One Evangelism

We sat by the fire in the lodge, the place where members of the university community often gathered to socialize, and talked of spiritual things.  My heart was full of God's love for this man, my friend and a colleague of my husband's at the research station where we lived and worked. 

He was speaking (it was his turn).  I was letting him talk, making eye contact, nodding occasionally to encourage him, waiting for my chance to reply.  He was a follower of Zen, and eager to share what he believed with me.  At the moment, he was saying something about the Oneness of the Universe.  

I was just as eager to share about Jesus, but I waited, praying, thinking about what I could say next.  Something that might reach into his spirit and open his eyes to the Truth of the Gospel.

Then a third party joined the conversation.  The Still, Small Voice said to me, "Are you listening to him?"

"Well, yes, Lord.  I'm listening and waiting for a chance to speak about You."

"No," He said.  "Are you LISTENING to him?" (emphasis His)

That moment--that question--changed the way I "do" evangelism forever.

What a concept!  We should LISTEN to people we care about for Jesus' sake. 

When I began to listen to my friend, three things happened.

1)  I realized, with deep shame, that I was treating him with respect for the first time in our history of conversing about God.  Why had it taken so long?  It's rude not to listen.  We Christians should be the last people on earth to be rude to others.

2)  I learned some interesting new things.  I learned about Zen Buddhism, how Buddhists think, what they believe.  My mind opened up.  My world became more colorful.  I became more informed and aware.  Enlightened, even!

3)  I began to see bridges between what my friend believed and what I believe.

ü  Christians believe in the Oneness of the universe too.  We just believe the "One" in Oneness is a Person, and that "oneness" happens when we choose to submit our spirits to His. 
ü  We believe human beings should behave ethically too.  We just believe they can only truly do that in the strength of the One we submit to. 
ü  We meditate as well.  But we don't empty our minds.  We fill them with Truth about the One.  

Our conversations continued after that day.  In the end, neither of us convinced the other that our way was the Truth.  But the results of sharing Christ with others are not our responsibility, and the end has not come yet.  God will work, in His way and in His time. 

I still have a hard time remembering to listen.  Talking is so much easier.  But listening is so much more rewarding, in every way.  Listening is loving, resting, learning, growing.  And in face-to-face, one-on-one situations, listening is essential to sharing the Gospel effectively.

Agree or disagree?  Please share your opinion in a comment.

This article was originally posted in the FECB blog on in March, 2013.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ginny's Quick Picks for Friday, March 22

I follow a blog called Conversion Diary, the musings of an atheist-turned-Catholic-mother-of-six-with-a-great-sense-of-humor. Every Friday she does a post of seven "Quick Picks," somewhat random thoughts she's collected through the week.

I'm going to experimentally borrow her idea here today.  The aim is to give you at least one link, or quick idea, that adds to the richness of your life in some way or another. Let me know if you like this kind of thing or not, okay?

Here are 7 links to thoughts that have stretched me, comforted me, or made me laugh this week. This post provides my comments and/or an excerpt from the links.  For full benefit, click on the highlighted hyperlink and go directly to the article.

1)  Some Clear Thinking On an Emotionally Charged Issue:  

From the Blog, Living on Tilt, posted by Katherine Harms in Religion and Politics: "To Dissent Is Not the Same as to Hate."  

Christ taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who abuse us. This means that even though we are called hate-mongers or accused of venomous speech, Christ expects us to respond with love. We can and must dispute with the people who assault what is right, but we must not engage in name-calling and vicious sound bites. When one United States Senator feels comfortable calling another United States Senator a “wacko bird” it feels as if the underpinnings of civil society are wobbling. Those of us who claim the name of Christ must depend on Christ to give us words for the conversation that express our message without demeaning our opponents. 
2)  Interesting in the News:
From the Israeli news source, Arutz Sheva, the article, "Temple Groups Practice Passover Sacrifice," by Maayana Miskin.
This news item interested me because my speculative novel, Zinovy's Journey, mentions a time in the future when blood sacrifices will once again be performed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  In my story, that time doesn't last long. It's quickly outlawed by the world government in power at the time.  But the incident gives Zinovy a chance to struggle with his personal phobia about the shedding of blood, as well as the hideous concept of a God who would require blood sacrifice from his people. 

3)  A Unique Take on Spirituality and Religion:

From Time Magazine, Ideas column, the article, "The Problem With Being Spiritual But Not Religious," by Rabbi David Wolpe.

No one expects those without faith to obligate themselves to a religious community. But for one who has an intuition of something greater than ourselves to hold that this is a purely personal truth, that it demands no communal searching and struggle, no organization to realize its potential in this world, straddles the line between narcissistic and solipsistic. If the spirit moves you to goodness, that is wonderful. For too many, though, spirituality is a VIP card allowing them to breeze past all those wretched souls waiting in line or doing the work. Join in; together is harder, but together is better.

4)  On Personal/Spiritual Growth:

From Along The Banks, by Camille Eide, "Irony of God #47: Surrender Brings Freedom"

Camille is an author I met at a writer's conference one year.  She's a delightful friend and writer, who makes me laugh and cry when I read what she writes.  In this article she says:  With each surrender, I find myself a little freer in my soul, a little less chained to my willful flesh, a little closer to Jesus, a little more like him.

5) Intriguing Quote of the Week: 

I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before any of this happened.

6)  Today's paraprosdokian* (not in any way to be taken seriously):

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

*from the Greek meaning 'beyond expectation.' A figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or reinterpret the first part.

7)  And last, but not least. . .  

From a Facebook page called "So funny ha ha pictures," who (hopefully) has the right to display this Bizarro Comic.  

Not too sure why this is funny, but maybe some of you will get it.  ;-)

Disclaimer:  I did not "Like" this Facebook page because I'm not sure I would "like" every cartoon posted on it!