Are you better at listening than speaking? Would you rather…
Are you better at listening than speaking? Would you rather ask a good question than expound on a response? Do you prefer to have a conversation rather than give a sermon? Are you more of an introvert than an extrovert? If so, take heart. You might just have what it takes to share the Gospel with a large percentage of people out there who don’t have the patience to sit in a church service, read a book, or listen much to the opinions of others.
Charlie, about 50, was one of those people. I asked about his beliefs and felt like I was trying to drink from an open fire hydrant as he shared his mixture of opinions that were self-contradictory and based on hearsay, conspiracy theories, and bible references that don’t exist.
I couldn’t respond to every untruth, and I hadn’t initiated the conversation in order to get into an argument, so I asked good questions and listened for responses that I could refer to later in the conversation. It wasn’t just passive listening, simply accepting everything Charlie told me without question. It was Socratic dialogue, a form of conversation based on asking good questions and responding to the answers, which was first demonstrated by Socrates and perfected by Jesus.
Charlie was very opinionated at first, so much so that I could barely get a word in edgewise, but eventually began to listen more as I helped him see himself in the mirror of God’s standard rather than in the deception of his self-righteousness.
Proverbs 14 says “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” I had to have great patience with Charlie if I was to have any hope of him listening to any Gospel truths I might share later on. Reacting negatively to any of his comments, especially early in the conversation, would only shut him down or start an argument.
In the same way, Proverbs 15 begins by stating “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Socratic questioning puts the focus on understanding rather than disagreement, on mutual respect rather than winning an argument.
I gave Charlie a Gospel-based book, and I have the hope that, even though he wasn’t such a good listener, that he will be interested in reading it later because he will remember that I showed respect and patience, asked some important questions and gave some reasonable and thought-provoking answers.
What does Socratic evangelism look like? See my attempt at it in this video of our conversation –