One time I received a letter written by a backslidden Christian. He was just beginning to turn his life around and get right with God again. In the letter he commented that God was increasing every little effort that he was putting forth toward the Lord. He was astounded that God would he so merciful to a backslider. It should not surprise us, for Jesus is merciful, and He specializes in hope.
By Robert E. Henson
“But be gentle with all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. . .” (II Timothy 2:24-25).
One evening as I lay upon a hospital bed in Penticton, British Columbia, the cancer specialist came to my bedside and began to give me some instructions. As he talked I tried to enter into the conversation. The doctor very abruptly said, “I am doing the talking, and you are doing the listening.” After this rebuke, I allowed him to do so.
The sheep know their shepherd’s voice. It is the shepherd who talks and the sheep that listen. Are the sheep never allowed to talk? Certainly, there is a time when they can do so and upon such occasions, the shepherd listens. Chiefly, it is in counseling sessions that the sheep do the speaking.
People are human beings and battle with loneliness, discouragement, heartache and fear. Each person is an individual with his own problems and fears. He needs to have his problems solves with his burden lifted. However, before the pastor can minister to him, he must understand the problems that need to be solved. This can never be done successfully without the ministry of listening.
We must never treat lightly the problem of the saint who needs help. I have often listened to problems being expressed and confessed that they seemed trivial. They were so insignificant that I could have laughed at the thought that they were being considered as problems. However, the thing that always must be remembered is that although they seemed small to me, they were no small problem to the person who was burdened down with them. To the bleeding sheep, the matter was significant, and the sheep was hurting.
Counseling is time consuming. Many hours may be spent in the ministry of listening. Although it may take much time, the time may be invested most effectively. In the counseling session, the hurting and bleeding sheep may be helped more than at any time.
Upon more than one occasion I have patiently listened to saints who have confided in me their problems and troubles. At the close, I might give them a few words of advice and a word of prayer. They leave with a hearty handshake saying, “Pastor, you have been such a blessing to me. You have really helped.” Actually, I have said very little. All that I had done was listen to them as they poured out their hearts. However, as they talked and confided in me, it was marvelous therapy. Their wounds were being healed as they unloaded their burdens.
Before souls can be won, they first must be reached. Souls are won on a one to one basis. They go to church and listen to their minister because they feel that their minister cares for them. He proves that he cares by patiently listening to them when they come with problems. He has the ability to help because he has built confidence. The confidence and trust earned allows him to communicate. Communication is not just a one-way street. To communicate, a minister must be able to both talk and listen.