The following is a guest post by Darrell Roland, one of my co-authors in our newest Coaching4Clergy book, Ministry 3.0.
Sitting outside this morning, I heard various sounds ringing in the air. Initially, I heard cars traveling nearby, buses beeping at their stops and children yelling as they run to catch their bus. Then, I listened deeper and heard who the children were, the screeching of the bus brakes and the engines of the cars and trucks, distinguishing the differences. Then I listened more intentionality and began to identify several types of birds chirping, leaves rustling in the breeze, dogs barking, the second hand of the clock moving and even a train that was approximately 10 miles away.
As humans created by God to share His message, listening is an essential tool for us to create our method of message delivery. It’s the gift of listening that opens the heart of a person to share their deepest desires and struggles. Reflect on a time when you knew that someone was really, really listening to you. How did you feel? You may have felt affirmed, valued, respected and loved. By listening, you are conveying love. Maybe not in our limited human understanding of love, yet certainly in God’s vast intent of love.
As a coach and pastor, I have come to understand that listening is not merely a method for message delivery; it is a spiritual responsibility. Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 to love one another as He has loved us, and that others will know we are His by our love for one another. Therefore, since listening conveys love, then we are not to only hear, but to listen.
Our lives are full of noise – noise of demands, noise of frustration, and noise of too many tasks. It’s our responsibility as coaches and ministers to help people filter through the noise of life by listening deeply for the sounds of life. Listen to what is said – what is communicated in the texture of their words, what is conveyed without words. There is a distinct difference between hearing the noise and listening for sounds. Out of hearing the noise of life, we develop our response. Out of listening to the sounds of life, we develop our understanding. The noise doesn’t go away, our focus shifts.
Here are a few tips that I pray will you help shift you from hearing to listening, thus increasing your effectiveness in ministry and life.
- Listen to identify the source of the noise.
- Listen for what the noise is masking.
- Listen to what is missing in the midst of the noise.
- Listen to what God is saying about the noise.
Recently I heard someone share that his daughter asked him if she could ask him a question. He said, “If I can answer it fast.” She said, “That’s okay, I will come back when you can listen slow.” God tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and to incline our ears to His understanding. As you seize the opportunities to convey love through listening, my prayer is that you listen slow and listen deep, allowing you to hear the sounds of life.