Are You Listening? Thoughts on Evangelism

mickey mouse earsListen first, talk second.

Think about the people that you love to be around. Think about the people you respect, the people that you know care about you. What’s the common denominator? They listen.

  • They don’t “half-listen” while thinking of the next thing to say.
  • They ask questions based on what they’ve heard me say, not just a question list tucked away.
  • They’ve shown me patience by listening well, thus I feel valued.

Why you should teach your local movement to listen better in evangelism:

  1. Listening in evangelism fuels relationship. You may have noticed that millennials are excited about authentic relationships. Yes, a rote presentation has it’s place for training, steps of faith, etc., but if we end there, we’ve dropped the ball. Think of the kingdom impact a graduate who is skilled at listening will have relationally.
  2. Listening in evangelism opens a dialogue with a culture that has religious baggage. I live and work on the west coast and I still use the 4-laws (nothing beats the clarity), but I have found that if I’m going to have any chance of being heard with whatever my evangelistic method of choice is, first I have to break through major barriers by listening well. Our movement in Portland has to listen first and talk second if we’re going to transform the campuses.

Two things that are hard about creating a listening culture in evangelism:

  1. It’s tough to teach good listening skills in a seminar. It’s even harder to teach how to ask reflective questions. It’s messy, has to be modeled, doesn’t come quickly and is tough to make transferable to Suzy freshman.
  2. I’ve got a lot to do and a lot of results to get to. Listening first and talking second tries my patience. I often have to check my heart to make sure I care more about the person across the table than just getting through my presentation.

What does it look like to listen in your context? Are we listening first and talking second? If not, where do we need to change?

Picture courtesy of Kanpeki Yume

  • Dave

    Hey Matt, great post. I couldn’t agree with you more. James 1:19 has convicted me so much for about 5 years now and I really hope some growth is taking place in that area personally.

    Regarding training students to listen better, do you have any ideas for how to practically do that? It seems that just being ‘normal’ and conversational is really needed for students in terms of evangelism…and being a good listener is a huge part of that. Do you have any suggestions for how to train these things to students while also training specific tactics of evangelism?

    • Matt McComas


      Yes the ability to have a conversation (listen and ask good questions) is a huge issue….I would say even amongst our staff/interns. I’ve got to take a step back and work on helping them get more comfortable in conversation.

      I’m hoping some of the northwest staff will weigh in on your question shortly, because I feel like if you figured out some real practical exercises and strategies at helping your movement get better in this, it would be a game changer. I’ll weigh in when I have some more time tomorrow, but anybody else have any thoughts?

      • Brian Barela

        we did an outreach at santa monica summer project a few years back where we asked the students not to SHARE until they had asked 3 questions, one of them having to be a follow up question.

        the feedback was so positive and the fruit was obvious.

        in fact i was convicted about the manner in which i share my faith because i realized i often don’t take enough time to listen before i share.

        great post buddy!

        • Matt McComas

          Love this specific example. I need a list of these to help train student to have a conversation!

  • Josh Payne

    Great post! I am going to use this article for discipleship up here in Chico. This is definitely an area where we have plenty of room for growth and it is an obvious “next step” for our evangelistic efforts.

  • Anne Wenger

    This post was very interesting and supports my own observation and conviction that we need help in relating to people well enough to gain a hearing for what we have to share. It is a message worth sharing, but if people are not ready to hear it there is no lasting result. I heard recently this phrase: If your mouth is in gear, it is so hard to hear. So the first step is to be prepared to hear what anyone says to you, not just prepared to deliver a message. And Randy Newman, CCCI staff member in the DC area, wrote a book about good use of questions in evangelism. I recommend it highly. Questioning Evangelism is the title. It does not mean what you might think, but is emphasizing the need to formulate good questions and then listening well before answering off the top of our heads.

  • Bob Fuhs

    Good post. A few years back I got some training through Couple Communication out of Colorado which included training on something they call the “listening cycle.” It’s a listening model that emphasizes following and not asking questions. We taught that as part of our training curriculum in Minnesota and we teach it to our staff teams every summer in Ocean City, New Jersey.

    I wholeheartedly agree that we need to be teaching our staff and students how to listen, not just for evangelism, but also for discipleship.

  • Karl

    When I have been explaining the Soularium to people outside of CCC, I have started to explain it as a tool to help us listen. The Soularium, because the questions are broad and the photographs don’t limit people’s thinking, actually help a lot in letting people talk about their life journey and experiences. I think this actually is one of the main strengths of this tool.

    I think training in using the Soularium can be a good starting point in teaching us and our students how to listen better.

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