Listen: Four ways to improve our engagement with others
The Evangelism Conference took place on 3 October in London and 5 October in Manchester.
The theme of this year’s Evangelism Conference was telling the ‘better story’ of the gospel in today’s narrative-soaked world.
We heard from John Stevens on why stories are so powerful in our culture, Glynn Harrison on the world’s stories about sexuality and how the gospel tells a much better story, and then Jonty Allcock preached to us from Luke’s gospel.
The middle session was a panel chat with John, Glynn and Jonty, plus Sam Gibb and Dai Hankey, which helped us apply these concepts of storytelling and evangelism to our everyday conversations.
In the discussion the panel reminded us that everyone has their own stories to tell, and in order to engage with the people around us we must be prepared to listen well.
It might sound basic, but the panel challenged us to consider how good we are at really listening to other people.
So what are some things we can be doing to engage well with the people around us?
1. Set the tone
Be prepared to tell some of your own story before you ask others about theirs. Being willing to be vulnerable when you talk about yourself and then asking ‘how about you?’ is a good way to set the tone of a conversation. This lets the other person know they can be honest with you too.
2. Be interested
Let people speak, and ask them questions. Too often we spend the whole conversation looking for an opportunity to download the gospel to someone. Of course we should be bold and maximise the opportunities we have to talk about Jesus, but we also need to be patient and really listen to what people are saying to us. People love to tell their stories, and if we ask them questions and allow them to speak we’ll know much better how to communicate the gospel to them.
You don’t need to have the answer. When someone tells you about their story and their struggles, sometimes all you can do is weep with them, and that’s OK. We tend to want to fix things when sometimes all the person we are talking to needs is the assurance they have been heard and understood.
4. Watch Netflix
No, seriously! Netflix is full of shows that tell us how our culture thinks. The narratives in these TV shows and films are saturated with the stories the people around us are drinking in all of the time. If we want to understand and engage with our culture better, watching a few popular programmes or films helps us get a better grip on what narratives our friends are listening to and believing. They can also spark some great conversations.
It’s not rocket science, but why not try some of these basic principles of listening well in the next conversation you have?
Did you miss the conference?
Talks are available online