I don’t think I’ve ever told all of you about my Uncle Woody. Uncle Woody was actually my great-uncle, and he really was a great uncle. When I was a little boy, my Uncle Woody would listen to anything I wanted to say; and, in general, I had quite a bit to say. When I was very young, I can remember riding on the tractor with Uncle Woody and telling him about my favorite shows on television and what my favorite games to play were; and he would hang on every word. Uncle Woody was a child of the Depression; he had an 8th-grade education and worked in a C.C. camp where he made $25 a month, most of which he sent home to support his family. Uncle Woody became a skilled mechanic and spent most of his professional career owning and operating his service station in Frankston, Texas. I could tell you so much more about my Uncle Woody—about how he spoke like Donald Duck to make me laugh or about how he was able to put together all of our toys at Christmas without using the instructions—but what sticks out in my mind the most was the fact that he always listened.
For the past several weeks in the Wednesday evening teen class, we have been studying godly leadership qualities. This past week we looked at listening as a godly leader-ship quality. I firmly believe that our world is suffering because of a lack of Christian leaders; it is for that reason that I am leading our teens through this study of godly leadership qualities. Listening is becoming a lost art in our fast-paced, instant-gratification world. This lack of good listeners is also keeping us from being able to reach the lost of this world. Those that are lost are often times seeking some guidance in their lives and would give anything for someone to listen to them. As God’s people, we are failing to listen to them. I shared with the teens three tips for becoming better listeners, and I believe that they will be beneficial for all of you as well.
#1-Change Your Schedule
Sometimes being a good listener means that you have to change your schedule. In my work as a minister, it is not uncommon for someone to reach out to me at an odd time of the day or night; and I freely admit that I do not always like it when my schedule is interrupted. From all of those experiences, I have found that more often than not it is worth it to change my schedule because I was able to listen and help that person. In John 3, Nicodemus approached Jesus at night to discuss his beliefs with the Messiah. It would have been simple for Jesus to tell Nicodemus that he was tired or to come see him during his regular office hours, but Jesus changed his schedule for the benefit of Nicodemus. Don’t be afraid to change your schedule.
#2-Meet People On Their Turf
Oftentimes when people want to talk to you, they will invite you out to dinner or into their homes. The reason for this is because they want to feel comfortable as they unburden themselves to you. I encourage you to meet the people where they want to meet in order to facilitate good listening; it may be uncomfortable at first, but it will yield great results. The Apostle Paul speaks of “…becoming all things to all men” in 1 Corinthians 9; meeting someone on their turf is a good way to become all things to all men.
#3-Listen Between The lines
Oftentimes people really don’t say what they mean to say. Oh, they mean to say whatever words came out of their mouth; but they are really saying much more than you think. When a teen tells me that they don’t like school because the other kids are mean, chances are that teen is being bullied but is afraid to say so. A good listener will learn to listen between the lines, to look past the words being said, and to get to the heart of the matter. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is hiding in a cave and is waiting to hear the voice of God. A mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire might be where you would expect the voice of the Lord to come from; but in the end the voice of the Lord came as a whisper. If we are going to be good listeners, we have to start listening to the whispers between the words.
Uncle Woody died when I was in the 4th grade, and there aren’t many days that go by that I don’t miss him. On those days when I am missing him, I am always glad that I had the time with him that I did and that he always listened. I encourage you to take a lesson from my Uncle Woody and be a good listener for someone.
Be Strong and Courageous,