Listening is an important concept that is taught throughout the Bible. It teaches us to listen to God’s voice as we move through our lives, but it also commands us to love others– and listening to them as a way to communicate love.
When we listen, we honor and support, but more than that, God often speaks to us through the words of other people. He can use those words to begin to work in our hearts. Listening is crucial in making the world more like the Kingdom.
Listening as a Strategic Practice in Missions
Hearing with our hearts, or “Empathic Listening” is a crucial part of healthy cross-cultural relationships. We all know that feeling of not being heard. It hurts and feels disrespectful. By listening intentionally and with our hearts we give ourselves to those being heard and we honor them.
Back in the 1990s, Pastor Idris Nalos of South Sudan shared a message with Mission ONE. His organization had been a partner since Mission ONE’s founding and Idris was asking us to support more than the work of evangelism and church planting.
You see, Pastor Idris was encouraging Mission ONE to make a shift to a more holistic gospel, one that is concerned about the whole person. The gospel speaks plainly about following Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but it’s also concerned with the whole person—mind, body, soul, spirit—and the whole community.
Listening to Pastor Idris and having that conversation was the catalyst for a shift in the philosophy of Mission ONE toward a more holistic gospel.
Another example comes from our relationship with our partner in Lebanon. He leads a ministry that blesses many Muslim people in the name of Jesus.
We recall him saying “it’s a big shame” when referring to unfortunate or challenging circumstances. This caused us to explore how the honor and shame cultural values that are part of the Bible and the gospel better relate to majority-world people.
At Mission ONE, we believe that empathic listening is fundamental in world missions. Although it can be a long journey, listening well leads to deeper understanding, more informed prayer, better collaboration, more passion for the mission, sometimes even more funding.
Listening is part of our DNA at Mission ONE. Listening well can lead us to surprising opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Trusting: Walking In Faith Then And Now
Learning to listen builds trust.
When Mission ONE was born, it was mostly a partnership ministry that focused on evangelism and church planting. But because we listened well, now, we also embrace ventures that focus on strategic projects that help transform communities.
From creating water wells, job training, education, and food relief, to helping spearhead small businesses, and other local-church-based projects, we have adopted a “both-and approach.” And we have seen God do great things.
Learning to listen has become a core value at Mission ONE. We often practice listening with our heart, without the intent to respond, but rather to understand. We encourage you to practice this empathic form of listening with someone in your life too.
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3 Ways to Honor God on Your Next Mission Trip
We're sharing three things you should consider before you organize or participate in an international mission trip, seek to do work in the multicultural neighborhood in your own city, or embark on any cross-cultural partnership.