Speaking out by listening (12-05-22)
A Bible Reading: John 4. 4 – 7, 9 – 18, 25 - 26 Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true…” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
David and I have recently joined the Care for the Family team of befrienders for bereaved parents. This involves being available to talk – or more important – to listen to the stories of bereaved parents on the telephone. We can often be nervous of this kind of conversation and avoid the bereaved, because we are worried about what to say, but it is surprising how a few gentle questions and a lot of listening can get the conversation started quite easily. We don’t actually need to say much at all. Listening is key. Similarly, we assume evangelism is primarily about talking, but how about starting with listening instead?
In the gospels, Jesus asks more than 180 questions. Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well is one of the longest recorded in the Bible between Jesus and one other person. Look how Jesus does it. Here he begins with a non-threatening practical question, a simple request for a drink of water on a hot day. It’s all rather matter of fact to begin with. The woman is a Samaritan, Jesus is a Jew, two groups at loggerheads with each other. They shouldn’t really be having a conversation at all. Then the well is deep and Jesus doesn’t have a bucket. What begins as a conversation about the everyday obvious quickly moves on to something much deeper and more meaningful, though perhaps a tad uncomfortable when it comes round to the marital status of the woman.
Jesus asks questions and listens to the woman; the woman asks questions and listens to Jesus. At the end of the conversation, the woman disappears back to her hometown, and tells everyone what has happened. She still has more questions: ‘Could this be the Christ?’ She wants to come back and hear more. Others are curious too, so she comes back with a crowd of people who all have questions of their own. (See John 4. 28 – 30)
Leading your Church into Growth uses a similar principle. It encourages us to ask people Who are you? - tell us a bit about yourselves, your life and family. Where are you? – Where are you with God? Do you believe in God or ever think about God? Why don’t you…? Have you heard about the special service we are having or the new course that is just starting? I’m going. It’s going to be good. Why don’t you come with me? These are simple questions we can all ask.
For those people you know – family members, friends and neighbours. Pray for opportunities to ask some questions, and give time to share your faith through careful listening.
And don’t forget to keep praying the LYCIG Prayer for Growth regularly:
God of mission, who alone brings growth to your Church. Send your Holy Spirit to give vision to our planning, wisdom to our actions, joy to our worship and power to our witness. Help our churches to grow in numbers, in spiritual commitment to you, and in service of our local community, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.