The Ministry of Listening

Within the opening verses of her story, the Samaritan woman delivers four lines of dialogue while Jesus responds with only two brief sentences. Her words seem to convey a sense of incredulousness as she questions whether Jesus is greater than Jacob. Instead of becoming defensive or agitated, he remains attentive, curious, genuinely hearing and addressing the underlying pain behind her questions. Perhaps there is something significant for us to glean from this exchange.

The art of listening is an essential skill for every Christian. Approaching others with a willingness to listen, free from judgment or interruption, holds great power in cultivating trust and fostering genuine relationships. Conversely, refusal to listen often leads to assumptions about one another, which become barriers that hinder our witness. When people sense judgment and condemnation, their defenses rise swiftly. But when they feel heard and understood, they find a sense of safety, enabling them to share their stories.

Deep listening does not mean we have to agree with what is being said, but we must embrace the idea that human connections are more important than conversational outcomes. Something of value may be said that we can learn from.

Throughout their conversation, the Samaritan woman progressively feels safer in the presence of Jesus, allowing her to gradually open up to him. She became receptive to his words as she sensed that her voice was being heard. Jesus’ ability to listen attentively amplified her curiosity and receptivity to his message.

Our listening suffers when our curiosity is contained.

Engaging in a ministry of listening surpasses merely leaving gaps in the conversation for others to interject their thoughts. We have all experienced situations where someone remained quiet, yet we knew they were not fully present or attuned to what we were saying. Instead, genuine listening entails offering our undivided attention to the person before us. When we wholeheartedly invest ourselves in a conversation, it influences our tone and manner of responding. We become more intentional about filling silences and more measured in our replies. This profound human connection paves the way for deeper and more compassionate communication.

Excerpted from Loving Samaritans by Terry Crist. Copyright 2024. Published by Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Publishing. Used by permission.

Terry Crist
Terry Crist

Terry Crist is the co-lead pastor of City of Grace in Phoenix alongside his wife, Judith.