Making Disciples by Listening

A Discipler Listens Because He Loves

Paul Tillich writes, “The first duty of love is to listen,” and yet how rare it is to have anyone listen to us, even in a movement that is supposed to be marked by love. Ministries spend thousands of dollars and work long hours trying to convince people to listen to them. Our seminaries, colleges, and churches teach how to preach, teach and lead, but not how to listen. The challenge of listening is that it requires a relationship, whereas preaching, teaching, and programs can be done in various non-personal ways. Jesus and Paul both serve as role models of how kingdom ministry should be done relationally. Jesus lived among His followers for thirty months and called them His friends. Paul loved the disciples at Thessalonica so much that he shared not only the gospel with them but his life as well (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

Teach Your Disciple How to Listen

Listening is one of the first skills in teaching someone how to make disciples. Listening to my disciple’s life story is important because I am searching for the work of God throughout his life. Even childhood events are significant because from conception God prepares each of His children for their eternal purpose. My aim in listening is to join in the Lord’s purpose for my disciple’s life and not to try and fit that disciple into my ministry agenda.

Teach Your Disciple How to be Listened to

Most children of God have not had anyone to help them interpret the experiences of their life. Although they may have had family or friends who have listened, they have not had anyone with the spiritual insight to help them see the Lord’s purpose in the circumstances throughout their life. Often a person will be intimidated to have someone genuinely listen to them for the first time. It is not unusual for it to take months for trust to be built between the discipler and disciple. How I teach my disciple to be listened to is by asking questions and then giving them plenty of time to answer. It is important for both the discipler and the disciple to be comfortable in silence. It is in the silence that the disciple can formulate his answers as well as work up the courage to give the answer. Often the disciple will know the answer to the question but needs time to muster up the courage to give the answer.

Here are ways I listen to my disciple:

  1. Draw a timeline of the disciple’s life.The timeline helps the disciple remember events and helps the discipler keep the story in order.
  2. After constructing the timeline, I ask for one week to consider the timeline in order to pray through the life events of the disciple and look for the work of God throughout their life.
  3. Look for what has not been said. There may be topics that should be present but that are conspicuous by the absence. For example, if a disciple says a lot about their mom but hardly mentions his dad that may indicate a problem with his relationship with his father.

2 thoughts on “Making Disciples by Listening

  1. I think it was Covey who said that “before we can seek to be understood we must first seek to understand.” I have found that in learning to listen I am able to point those I am discipling to “obvious” things in their life that they may not recognize themselves. It is through those kind of moments that I have seen the light bulb turn on in many people’s lives.

    Listening…it is a good thing. Takes patience and laying down my agenda and opens me up to follow the Spirit’s purpose rather than my own.

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