Webinar III: Listening Skills for the Small Group Leader
From the series Web Conferences
Don’t you sometimes wish, when you’re in a conversation with someone, that they’d slow down long enough to really listen to you? And it's probably fair to say that others have thought the same thing about you from time to time. In this webinar event, Chip and his guests focus on listening skills - specifically in the small group setting. You get a front row seat with Chip, to hear part 1 of that special event.
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Small Groups & Leaders
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Chip: Well, welcome to Living on the Edge. If you’re new, my name is Chip Ingram. I am the senior pastor here at Venture Christian Church and the teaching pastor at Living on the Edge.
And with me is my friend and buddy here, Jim Blazin. He is over all of our discipleship but has a long history in developing small groups, teaching small group leaders, and it’s good to have you.
Jim: It’s good to be here!
Chip: I want to jump right in. Let me just tell you, Jim is the expert. I will be your host. I might add a little color commentary. I’ve done small groups all my life.
The second thing is is that I want to welcome over eight hundred of you from over fifteen countries so…
Jim: Wow, that’s great.
Chip: But it’s great to have you guys. So are you ready to roll?
Jim: Yeah! We’re good. Let’s do it.
Chip: Okay. You know what? Could we all pause? Lord, will You please, right now, wherever anyone is, would You open our mind, open our heart? We are going to talk about listening. Will You help us to listen to You? Holy Spirit, would You have extraordinary freedom? Will you fill Jim with wisdom and insight and would You give us ears to hear to know: So, what is the next, even baby step to take to become better listeners and leaders? In Christ’s name, amen.
Well, you’re ready.
Chip: Why is listening a key component to discipleship? It’s not just about a successful small group. We are really talking about making disciples. Why is listening so important?
Jim: Yeah, I think from maybe a high-level perspective, number one, I don’t know how we lead someone in a direction – Matthew 28 says, “As you go into the world, make disciples.” So there is this sense of intentionality that we have got to discover where someone is coming from. We have got to hear their story to some degree, we have got to hear their worldview to understand where they are in their spiritual journey so that we can actually intentionally lead them in a direction.
Chip: Well, if I was going to press you, because we really believe that Scripture is our baseline. It’s our truth. Where do you see this modeled in Scripture? Where and how does listening really become an: I have to know where a person is so I can lead them in terms of their pursuit of Christ?
Jim: Sure. Yeah, I think of Acts 8 with Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch and the part that jumps out at me that, to me is so powerful, is that Philip comes alongside the Eunuch and he says, “Hey, what are you reading?”
Jim: He asks a simple question, “What are you reading?” “Do you understand what you’re reading?” is what Philip basically says. And he says to him, “How would I know unless someone explains it to me?” The door is opened right there with a simple question and listening.
Chip: Yeah. I think one of the things that all of us, we are going to touch on this tension, Jim. But it’s like, Okay, we are doing a study. It could be a book study, it could be studying a book of the Bible. It might be a Living on the Edge small group study. And there’s, okay, there’s all these questions to get through. Why do we use questions? What is it about questions that help people listen?
Jim: First of all, what I heard you say, they were twofold in questions. One is: Why the questions? And I think the questions become a rudder or a steering wheel to lead us toward a desired outcome. So that’s one thing.
Why questions are so important is because I think they position people before God to think, to feel, and they position people horizontally with others in a group to leverage and to share what is actually going on in their hearts and in their lives at a given time.
Chip: You know, we believe, Jesus taught, “You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.” And I think some of us have such a commitment we want content. We want them to get through the study and one of the things I have heard you say is that when we listen, we can hear people’s fears. We hear their beliefs. We hear where there is anxiety. And sometimes we think God’s Word is just – jam it in them.
Chip: It’s delicately allowing the Holy Spirit to take this study and what you’re doing as the facilitator is, How do I help them get the truth that they need in the amount that they can handle…
Jim: That’s right.
Chip: What do you do, when a group is starting or like someone is new where you don’t want to – maybe you do – but how do you get a feel for where people are coming from without the whole thing just being like, Wow, everyone shared their story. We read one verse.
Jim: Yeah. Well, I think it’s important and often there’s a lot of tension around the fact that people overtalk in small groups. And let’s be honest, everybody wants to talk about themselves and share their story.
So the reality is, if everybody wants to share, how do you position the group so that there’s enough conversation that allows people to discover what one another are about? And even more importantly, what they believe about God that includes everybody but the greatest way I know to do that is to have some guidelines or some boundaries on the front end.
Jim: So if I were to start a group, I would just say, “Hey, look, we all have passion about a certain thing in our lives. We all want to discover, we all want to share. The way we are going to be able to do this in the given time that we have in the format that we have is to honor an awareness of how much time one is speaking within the group.” And so as a facilitator or a leader, I’m going to set that pace and cadence and it may be that you have passion that runs a little longer than what affords everybody else a chance. So I might ask you to just hold that thought or I might affirm what you shared and then move the question on.
But I think if we have those discussions on the front end, it really helps us address some of the issues that come up when people just run away with stuff.
Chip: Good. The second question here is what would you say are important skills to learn about listening? So it’s one thing to say we need to learn to listen. So what skills? What skills do I need? How do I do that and how do I do it better?
Jim: Yeah, one of our mutual friends said something a few weeks ago when were literally listening to him. And he said, “Good listening is not waiting to talk.” And I think right away that sets a heart, that sets a framework to say, “Do I really care about you? Do I really want to discover? Do I want to learn what is going on in your life? Or am I in such a hurry to tell you what you need to know that I just run right over who you are as an individual?”
So I think it’s very active in nature. I think there is eye contact, there is body positioning, there’s non-verbal nods and leaning in. There’s appropriate clarity questions that you can ask. There are a number of ways to affirm what it is that you’re sharing, Chip, is important to me. And so I think those are just basic listening skills that would enhance any of our relationships whether it’s in a small group or with your spouse or kids.
Chip: So eye contact, facial expression, body language, leaning in, and holding back when you hear something, Oh, I now see what they really need to hear is this.
Chip: You’re not waiting for, If you would just shut up then I can tell them the great truth that I have. It’s really, I want to listen. There’s a real trust element in the Holy Spirit working, isn’t there?
Jim: Sure. And I think even feedback to say, “This is what I heard you say.” And then just sitting there and the person saying, “Yeah, that’s what I said.” And you go, “Hm, okay.” Sometimes a simple, “Okay.” You’ll do this with me. You’ll ask me a question and then I will respond and then you’ll, “Hm.” And when you do that, you force me to go, What did I actually say right there and did it make sense?
Chip: I like that idea too of, we could play with this, but, “Is this what I heard you say?” That’s a phrase you might jot down. You are listening. Don’t assume, that because you heard the words, you got the meaning.
Jim: Mm-hm. Well, and some people verbally process and when you give them back what they said, then they go, “Well, no, that’s not what I meant.”
Jim: And they will autocorrect, “This is what I really meant.” So sometimes it’s just helping them communicate in a more clear fashion.
Chip: So what we have said so far is: Listening really matters, listening makes people feel loved and affirmed. We have said that you can’t take people anywhere until you know their heart, their fears, their concerns, where they are at, because listening is a means of discipleship.
And it’s a skill. “He who gives an answer before he hears – it’s folly and shame unto him.” That’s Proverbs 18:13.
And the third question I have for you is: How does listening create opportunities for good questions? What is it about listening to people in the dynamic of a group or even one-on-one that really creates opportunities for good questions?
Jim: Well, I think about Jesus on the road to Emmaus, the disciples are talking with one another. He comes up alongside of them and He says, “Hey, what are you guys talking about?”
You taught out of Genesis on this same thing with God in the garden too. Questions that are just like, “So what are you discussing?” And that whole story is interesting because as you track with it and follow it, you find that Jesus really challenges them to get out of their funk. But what is their response? He listens, He asks questions, He challenges them where they are. They invite Him in. They want Him to come and spend time with them.
And I think so often that is a process that we go through with people. It may not be as instantaneous as that story reveals but I think it’s very relevant.
Chip: I would, as a small group leader, facilitator, or if you’re coaching leaders, I think one of the things you always want to ask is, I call it: What is your talking versus your question quotient? How much are you talking versus how much are you listening? And not that you want to literally do this, because for some of us it would be painful, but if you recorded your entire small group and then every time you talked you wrote down all the minutes and every time there was discussion you wrote down the minutes, you would probably be surprised. And whether we like it or not, people feel loved and like it was a great group when they got to talk.
Jim: That’s right.
Chip: They got to share. And so if you’re a teacher, the challenge is: How do you hold back? Right?
Chip: If you’re an exhorter or a counselor it’s like, Oh, I just heard that. I want to fix that. So if it’s prophetic it’s, “That’s wrong, dude! You need to stop it right now.” And I think one of the things we want you to hear is: Asking questions that allow you to really hear what’s going on will also allow people to process: What do I think? What do I believe? And it’s amazing: when people learn by discovery, convictions are formed. When people learn just by being talked at, they will intellectually agree, but convictions bring life change.
What’s the most difficult situation for you to be a good listener?
Jim: Probably when I see someone who is manipulative or taking the group in a direction that either will cause another person to stumble or they are just checked out and they just derail the group. That’s the hardest. Those are the hardest, I think.
Chip: You shared earlier, we were talking and praying and thinking about, Lord, help us to share with you all. And Jim shared a story that, was it last week or a couple of weeks ago?
Jim: I think a few weeks ago, yeah, uh-huh.
Chip: Yeah, tell that story, because I think it’s really important for people to hear.
Jim: Well, what happened was a person in the group shared, I have been listening and I have heard a few times an undertone of perhaps looking at another denomination through a lens that is not particularly healthy.
And so my shepherd part of wanting to protect everybody else in the group, I chose to speak directly to it. And I asked the question: “What do you have against this particular denomination?”
And I blew it in the sense that I should have gone one-on-one. I asked the question in front of a group. And the person really got hurt as a result of me asking it the way that I did. So I don’t have this all figured out.
My heart as a shepherd was to go, “I really don’t want everybody else to think that what that person is saying is right.” The question is: How do I correct that in a way that honors the individual and still puts truth on the table?
Chip: And there are two or three things about this story that I think are really good. One is “This guy is slamming people.” And actually, he got angry. Down deep it was like, I can’t let this happen in the group. And so you called him, lovingly, but you called him out and he didn’t respond really well. One is I don’t think that’s always wrong, but in his case, maybe offline. Usually offline is way better.
Jim: Yeah, it would have been. Sure, it would have been more honoring to him.
Chip: But I think there’s something, I just wanted to pause. We are on listening, listening, listening, listening.
The other part of this I want you to get is, yeah, we listen, we listen, we listen but that doesn’t mean you compromise your responsibility. There are times where you stop listening and you say, “Hey, hey, Bob! You know, there is something behind that level of anger toward that group,” and “Maybe you and I could talk about that afterwards tonight or later. But I’m not sensing that that really is honoring the Lord here. Maybe we need to move on.”
But you can’t just say, “Hey, I was listening to this webinar and I am supposed to be a good listener,” and you just keep listening to poison coming out of someone’s mouth.
Jim: Well, and not only that but if you continue to just listen and you don’t have a desired outcome in mind, then the group is not going to go anywhere and people aren’t going to come back. So often listening becomes a tool for us as leaders to come alongside someone one-on-one at a later time. There are things that we hear that trigger ideas that we may have to help a person. And so we can return.
I might say to Chip, “Hey, you know the other night, Chip, I heard you say this. Or this is what I heard you say the other night. Help me understand what you meant by that.” And that’s a way to do it one-on-one where I’m not putting the person on the spot in the group.
Chip: Yeah. The skill behind that is, just in terms of the principle that I hear Jim saying is: When you are listening, you recognize people have problems, they may have an issue in a relationship, and asking a question will cause them to begin to get self-aware of what is going on and people will open their heart.
Jim: And the other thing is how we ask the question. If my heart isn’t in a good place because someone has lit my fuse, then wisdom would say I would deal with it later because if I come back with a cutting question or they feel like they are on trial, then everybody else in the group is going to go, Whoa. If I say something stupid, the leader is going to shut me down.
Chip: Here’s a little skill that I have learned in very delicate situations and this is maybe offline, but sometimes you can do this in a group. I just did it yesterday. It was a very intense situation. And I thought I had a sense of what might be going on in someone’s heart.
And I felt like what needed to be addressed is what was going on in their heart, not the issue. I thought the issue was a set of circumstances. And, yet, it would be like to go there would be really risky and, Do I really have that permission?
I said, “I could really be wrong, but I sense there might be something deeper.”
“And I would only, with your permission, would I like to maybe ask a couple questions or make a comment that I think might be helpful, but I could be wrong and it could be sensitive. So I would have to ask your permission.” And then I got one of those looks that said… I think I would be open to that. And when I got that look then I said, “Do I have your permission to share what I think possibly could be behind this?” And the guy looked at me and he goes, “Yeah.”
Jim: That’s great.
Chip: And it was a powerful, powerful moment and it happened to, in that one, it happened to be part of a past life history and as we shared that, he went like, Oh wow. And then it was, we didn’t fix anything. But it was like, there was a bond that got created and there was awareness that happened.
There was an implication for God to work in his life. It wasn’t like, Oh, thank you. Now I do A, B, and C.
Chip: But it was a precious moment that came from, I heard his words, but it was one of those things where the issue was a twenty-five dollar issue and he had a twenty-five thousand dollar response.
Chip: But it wasn’t a twenty-five dollar issue to him. But it was big because of other things that had happened. And making disciples isn’t just about getting information in people’s heads. It’s discovering. We are to be delicate. What is God doing in this man or this woman’s heart? And how do I steward that and how do I help them and move them, by grace, and sometimes grace is very kind and loving and compassionate. And sometimes grace is: Would you allow the truth, like a surgeon’s scalpel, to go to a hard place? And I think the body language has to say: And I will go there with you.
Jim: Yeah. That’s good. I think it’s important that we have an ear towards God and an ear towards an individual because I do and have experienced many times where the Holy Spirit will tell me something that I need to listen to and not overdrive with my passion or zeal for fixing someone.
Chip: Questions reveal something interesting. And I think it’s how God’s grace always flows downhill. In other words, humility. Listening requires, you know what? I don’t know it all. Listening is: What you have to say matters.
Chip: Well, I think we’re ready for some questions. So, hey, Andrew! Have you got some questions for us? Andrew is our Chief Operating Officer at Living on the Edge and he has taken lots of questions and he has paired them around what they have in common. So fire away, buddy.
Andrew: Yeah, so, I love this question because it goes back to another webinar that we did. But I think there’s principle here that you can answer: In order to have a small group as you presented in the Transformed series, it takes five to get to know one another, last time you said small groups should be six to eight weeks long. How can you really know your people in that short period of time?
Jim: Do you want to respond to that one?
Chip: Yeah. I would say almost everything you hear in these webinars, if you would just put a box around it that says, “context” – what kind of group? Do you already know the people? The general rule is if you do anything less than six or eight weeks, it’s hard to get very…
If you do three or four weeks it’s pretty casual. You can develop a deeper relationship. But even when we say six or eight weeks, at least for Jim and myself, honestly, what we are thinking is: That’s phase one. And we are going to have people do that. And our expectation is we are going to give people a break. We are going to build some relationship, we are going to celebrate, maybe all eat together at the end of eight weeks.
And then we are going to be, during, like, week six or seven, we are talking about, Would you guys be open to doing another one? Let’s take a little break. And so what you really want to do is put a six or eight week one, another six or eight week one, another one.
And then you look up and you realize, Wow, this group has been together for a year and a half and we have got great relationships. And for some people it was a season. We can’t keep going.
So my old Navigator training: Help many; train a few. And so you can help a lot of people but, boy, some of them will stick with you for a while, become apprentices. So you can’t get to know people super, super deep in six to eight weeks, but a lot deeper than where you were.
Jim: Sure. Sure.
Andrew: That’s great. So here’s another one. How do you help steer the conversation without being overbearing?
Jim: I think you have to have an end goal in mind. So, first of all, it may be that the curriculum, per-se, has eight questions to it. And perhaps in advance you go through the curriculum and you pick out: What are the three questions that I have got to cover to get to the outcome?
Chip: Yeah, no matter what.
Jim: No matter what. And then if someone in the middle of that process starts to steer, this is where you have got to shut your listening filter off, temporarily, and you have got to think while someone is speaking, How do I re-vector them? It’s like a control tower with all these planes trying to land. And it’s like, Okay, I am going to have to redirect this person. What is the best way that I can do it that leads us towards the next question?
Chip: That’s perfect. I am drawing a little picture and you probably won’t be able to see this but maybe someone really, really – Austin who is here is graphically gifted – is that, does that even work or should I just talk? Yeah. Okay. When I do groups, I actually do this on my messages.
On the right is my target and I review the study, I’ll look at the questions, I have studied the passage. And I literally write down, “At the end of our time tonight,” or this group study, I want them to know this, I want them to feel this, and I want them to do this.
And I write out a sentence. I want them to know that God’s love is greater and overwhelming no matter what you have ever done. I want them to feel accepted and encouraged and that His love is present here. Do: I want them to step out and take initiative in the group and then this week, to love someone else. And I wrote those down.
Then, here’s my group, and then I could put little letters of different people’s names and then I look at the questions and think, Yeah, we can, most questions are designed, general information or, What is your opinion? You can’t get that wrong.
Then the next questions are more: How do you really feel? What are you going to do about it? And then the final questions are more application. And you know that’s the flow, but sometimes someone shares this or the group is going different directions. As long as I know this outcome, what I can do is I can gently guide the group toward that and not feel like I have got to drive it and make it happen.
But if I don’t have those outcomes in my mind I feel like, Oh, we’re going this way. Now we’re going this way. Now we’re going this way.
Jim: Well and you can get lost in it all too. We wouldn’t get up and teach something without some sort of an outline because if you get lost, you can always return to something. If you know the map that you have set out with questions, you can re-navigate.
Chip: And this is not about listening, but I am going to say this anyway because we are passionate about discipleship. Here’s the thing. Small groups that open workbooks, even watch DVDs, talk to one another and have a really good time and feel good about that is not the goal of the small group.
Life change can happen in small groups. Life change doesn’t always happen in small groups. But life change happens in a small group when the facilitator says, “We are on a mission together.” And you can be kind and gentle. But you are moving, you are asking God, I am commanded: “Go unto all the world. Make disciples.” I want to help these people become like Christ. I want to help these people understand God’s love and give God’s love. I want to help these people become agents of salt and light that transform their family and their world.
So there has got to be intentionality and a listening skill is a big part of this.
Andrew: Here’s another question from someone. They said, they asked: I am just wondering if you could share some key heart-revealing questions that could help to get what is going on in someone’s heart?
Chip: What I hear behind this question is: It feels like our group kind of stays at this semi-superficial level and I want to go deeper but, question four…and, “What did you get for question seven?” How do you get there?
Some that are semi-gentle that get us down there is: Before we get going, we’re studying this and that. This is a big challenge in the apostle Paul’s life. Could I ask us just to take a minute? What’s the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
Chip: Another one, because people live crazy lives is: If you could change one thing about your pace in life, just remove one pressure right now that really has you weighed down, what would it be? Or, What are you most concerned about? If you just had to list the top three concerns, no one has to fix anything, but if we just went around the room and just said, “I am concerned about…” what are you concerned about?
And usually that will begin to surface things. And there’s a lot of play in there. In other words, “I’m concerned my muffler is too loud,” or, “I’m concerned because my daughter is dating a guy who I know is bad news and I am up at night.”
Well, both of those are great answers. But there’s a lot of room to go deep or not so deep.
Jim: Yeah, and the piece that I would say, from a leader perspective is, if you’re not modeling a level of transparency then what you desire out of your people will never, never reach that place. So when you set the tone for that transparency, when you ask questions like Chip is saying, it’s really easy for people to respond because it’s a safe environment.
Andrew: How do you address those in a group who want to fix the person who just shared something on their heart?
Jim: Oh boy. That’s a great question.
Chip: That is a great question.
Jim: Yeah. Well, I think this is where, as a leader that you need to provide a safe environment for people to process life in. And so a person who might be a professional counselor or a know-it-all or just have the fix-it gene, I think it’s really important that as a leader you probably just take them aside and you help them understand what it is that you’re hearing them do.
I think when we set boundaries at the beginning, one of the things that we talk about is, this is not an environment to fix people in.
Jim: And I think it’s totally okay if I were to do that for Chip to say, “Hey, Jim, can you hold that? Remember we talked about the fact that we weren’t going to offer fixes in this group? I appreciate your heart and your desire but we are just going to let this one move on,” and just redirect.
But I think if it’s a perpetual deal you have got to get with the individual and just say, “Hey, I really need you to help in this way.”
Andrew: Someone asked this question, let’s see if I can paraphrase it. When I share and try to facilitate, most of the answers are from me and the work is mine. So how do I get people to put the time in before a group so we are growing? My group wants to be spoon fed as opposed to doing some of the work that is necessary to grow. How would you help that leader?
Jim: Well, starting with maybe some clear expectations and outcomes for the group.
So there’s a lot to that question. I’ll say this. If you have a group that is very non-committal, the group will have a hard time surviving for an extended period of time. And if you’re the Bible answer man and everybody just wants to listen, and I don’t mean this to be mean-spirited. Seriously. But I think it’s important that if that environment is transpiring, the very first thing we need to do is look in the mirror and go, What am I doing as a leader that is allowing those people to sit back and do that? Is there something that I am doing? Because most of the time it’s more about my leadership than it is about the other people. I don’t know if you want to add to that.
Chip: No, I think too, as I think we are living in a world where holding people to a commitment feels very, Well, that’s not grace. And could it even border on judgmental?
Well, you signed up for the group, okay? I’m the leader. And if no one is doing their stuff, I have had this happen where I have said, I think we all were really excited about this. But one of my life phrases is: Listen to people’s behavior, not their words.
So if I’m listening to your behavior and your behavior is no one is reading it or preparing it, maybe this isn’t the right season for you. Or maybe this wasn’t the right topic. And I’m good with that but let’s have an open discussion and if you can’t prepare or you’re not motivated to prepare then let’s just agree that, man, this is probably not the right time for this. But if you want me to facilitate and lead this, my expectation is that you all would do this as well. And, by the way, this is not heavy handed or any pressure but when we start our group next time, because I’m the only one prepared, is I am going to ask each of you, individually, to share what you learned. Okay? So we’ve got a week’s notice.
Now, if no one shows up, you’ll know. But I think we live in a day that, Jesus said a lot of straightforward,
We all need someone to tell us: Are you going to step up and do what you say you’re going to do? And to not do that is a waste of your time and theirs.
Jim: Yeah, that’s good.
Andrew: Someone asks: I have been leading a Bible study group for a couple of years and I haven’t been the best leader or listener. How can I make changes midstream?
Jim: Well, I think probably the fact that there’s an awareness that you need to make adjustments is the starting point. And I think maybe a couple of things you can do, first of all, is seek some counsel or to help maybe sift through what that would look like for change. But I don’t know that you have to announce from the rooftops that you’re making a change.
And maybe there’s a transition or pivot in the group where you’re able to say something like, “I want to be transparent for a minute. I have been leading this group for the last whatever, and I have just recently come to the understanding that there are some things I personally need to change.”
Look, you’re modeling a transparent, humble attitude that will go miles with people. And I think you can say, “Hey, I’m not going to do this perfectly but I am going to really try to do this, this, and this,” whether it’s listening or good questions or boundaries to keep the group on track. Whatever that is, the greatest thing you can do is be authentic with your people.
Chip: I have nothing to add. That is a great answer.
Andrew: Great answer, Jim.
Andrew: Well, there is something that you said that sometimes listening leads to questions. And there’s a whole set of people who are just shy and don’t want to even participate so you don’t even get a chance to listen. So how do you draw out people who are more shy or more reserved in a group?
Jim: First of all, low-risk questions, if you’re going to ask them a question. I think in the guidelines at the beginning it’s okay to say, Hey, early on as we establish relationship with one another, this is the level that we are going to function at. And it’s okay for you to pass, but as a leader, what I want to do, if they’re a very quiet person, I may want to meet with them one-on-one and just hear their story.
And once I know what they’re about then I can ask them questions that help them participate and contribute to the group in really healthy ways. And it doesn’t put them on the spot.
Chip: Yeah. In our small group material at Living on the Edge, in the first even two to three sessions I close out all the groups and I’ll ask a question. And I’ll say something like, “You know what? You don’t have to answer this. If you’re facilitating the group, why don’t you start?” And you are gentle.
And then usually about session five or four, I’m saying, “You know what? It’s time to take a risk.” And I would say gentleness is just one of the key things. Asking a question with gentleness, “Barbara, it has been a great discussion here tonight. I happen to know that you really, man, you have some, you have a pretty interesting story and view on this. Would you mind just taking a couple minutes and sharing just a little bit of that story?”
And what you’re saying is, “We value you. I recognize this makes you feel a little uncomfortable, but this group is with you. Would you take a little step for us?” And I have just found that gentleness, often, it just creates safety.
Jim: That’s good. Yeah.
Andrew: Well, we have time just for one more question and then we will have to go.
But let’s close out with this one. It’s for a group that they are starting a group with people who don’t know Christ. And so their specific question is: What study would you suggest and what specific dos and don’ts should we be aware of before jumping into a type of group like this? And obviously prayer is our first step. But what’s some advice you can give to some people who – listening and answering questions for non-believers?
Chip: I get these little paperback gospel of Johns that are in an easy-to-read format. And it’s completely – I don’t teach. And let’s read a chapter and then I ask questions. What does it say? Who does Jesus claim to be?
Verse 1. 1 and 2. Where did He come from? And I did this in dorm rooms. I did this just sitting on the floor and we would read John chapter 1 and then and so I use John 1, John 2, John 3, John 4. By the time John 5, He basically says, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes on Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life.”
So it’s the end of five weeks, “Guys, hey, it was great.” Without exception, every time I have done that I have had people on the side say, “Wow, this is what I am thinking.”
Jim: Yeah, I think that’s great. Just a couple of things come to mind that are really practical. One is: Don’t use “Christianese.” Try to communicate in a way that is common language to who your target is and don’t expect that they are going to be in a different spot. And I love the whole concept of – pray for a heart of evangelism in terms of: how do you present things to them in such a way that – they are already there. They are asking. And so how do you give them something practical that they can chew on and Keep it really simple.
Chip: Yeah. And I would say: avoid moralism. They are not Christians. Don’t expect them to act like Christians. They were coming to the study; of course they are living together. Of course they are having sex. I was with a guy, “Man, that’s a hell of a verse there.” You know? Why wouldn’t he speak that way?
And so, by the way, I didn’t mean to offend anyone there. I was quoting someone else on that.– non-Christians can’t live like Christians. The Spirit of God doesn’t live in them. So let them share and don’t act shocked. God’s Word is going to speak.
Well, thank you all so much. our prayer is that you would become a great listener to hear people’s hearts and then allow the Spirit of God to take the Word of God like a choice Word in a gold-setting in silver that would bring about life change and love in the hearts of people. So keep pressing ahead and thanks for joining us.