The problem with this series of posts is that the one on top may not make much sense unless you’ve read the two or three preceding it. The subject of this post is the listening part of listening and inviting as the way of Episcopalian evangelizing.
Episcopalians are, for the most part, uncomfortable being too public about sharing their faith. More often than it should that is because they are not all that sure what their faith is, or at least not sure what words to use to describe it. My answer to “I don’t know what to say” is to say nothing at all. Just listen. Listening is harder than it sounds mostly because we are lazy listeners. We don’t really want to put the effort into actually hearing what someone else is saying, but the fact is that sooner or later, in almost any conversation, the other person is going to say something that just begs to open up a deeper conversation about the ultimate questions of life. Pay attention! Listen! At least once or twice a day someone, maybe a stranger, maybe the clerk at a store, maybe your best friend, will say something that could open the door to a deeper conversation that will lead toward God. When that door opens do not rush in. Do not start talking. If the time and place are right, ask a question, a simple question inviting them to say more and then SHUT UP AND LISTEN. What kind of question is a simple question? How about: Are you comfortable saying about that?; Can you tell me what you mean?; Why do you ask? Don’t complicate matters. Just work on listening, and if you are up to it, start making a list of comments that might have opened up a conversation in a Godward direction. I guarantee that they will come every day: comments about days at church camp, recent deaths in the family, questions about good and evil, complaints about churches, wondering about happiness and sadness, anger at God. You name it, someone will say it, but you won’t hear it unless you are listening.
By the way, I once had a parishioner quit the church in a blaze of anger that included a letter to the vestry accusing me of being the worst listener and without an ounce of pastoral counseling ability. Hey, it happens.
Got any thoughts on listening? If so, post them. The next subject will be inviting.