The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

James 1:19

To answer before listening –
    that is folly and shame.

Proverbs 18:13

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.’

Acts 17:22–23

According to John Stott, ‘Christian witnesses stand between the Word and the world, with the consequent obligation to listen to both.’

Last week, we unpacked listening to the Word, on and for our frontlines. However, most of us already see the need for this. Scripture is, after all, God-breathed. But there’s just as much obligation to listen to the world too.

To answer before hearing the question, just waiting for the opportunity to make our point, is a folly, and risks rendering the gospel irrelevant. But, like Paul wandering the streets of Athens, when we listen to people on our frontlines, to their fears and longings, we’re motivated by empathy to discern how best to share the good news of Christ in a way that offers meaningful responses.

And there’s more. Not only does listening lead us to speak better words, but it also gives us the opportunity – like Paul in Athens or Daniel in Babylon – to meet God where we might not expect to find him. We listen to a neighbour and sense the Spirit moving in their life, or discover God’s comforting presence in stories of pain and loss. Where might there be an opportunity to join in the work he’s already started?

To do this, we listen humbly to learn from the wisdom of the world around us, rather than assuming a position of superiority. We listen prayerfully with the help of the Spirit, to discern what’s going on beneath the surface. And we listen patiently – this takes time. We’re called to be quick to listen, not to listen quickly.

This isn’t something to get out of the way, a box to tick before we minister with our words – to listen is to minister. As David Augsburger put it, ‘Being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.’ So, practically, let’s love our colleagues, friends, and family by asking wise questions which help us hear their heart: what are their hurts, hopes, and struggles, and how might the gospel meet their deepest needs?

Following Stott, ‘We listen to the Word to discover ever more of the riches of Christ. And we listen to the world in order to discern which of Christ’s riches are needed most and how to present them in their best light.’ Through your listening, may you clearly present the much-needed riches of Christ on your frontline this week.

Matt Jolley 
Editor, Word for the Week


  1. Great thoughts, Matt – loved this line: ‘to listen is to minister’. The email, with which this WfW came, asked: ‘As you listen to the world on your frontlines this week, what’s the main voice you hear?’

    Yesterday I took Sunday afternoon out to cycle around London city, and finished at the food stalls behind the Southbank centre. The gelato stall caught my attention, with a middle aged man cleaning his cart, obviously filling in time between customers who were few and far between. I simply asked how he was, and whether the returning crowds were a god-send. With no further input, he shared how 2020 was the worst year of his life, only receiving £800 in benefits as an independent stall operator … and that he’d chewed all their family savings to stay afloat. He was scared we would head back into another lockdown, and desperate to see some sunny days where passersby would purchase his goods. (And they were good!)

    So, at least from this gent, I’m hearing fragile hope, easily drowned out by fear, anxiety, and even anger over a year that nearly broke his will to go on. The Spirit tapped me on the shoulder to say, ‘simply listen – and be kind’. We had a good chat. And I simply thanked him for his courage to keep going, and doing such a great job keeping famished cyclists rolling on. I’d read about how tough times have been, and have some sense – but listening to my neighbour made it real and shaped my prayers moving forward.

    Thanks, Matt, for the simple reminder to listen, on mission with Jesus. For, as you quoted David Augsburger, ‘Being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.’

    By Dave Benson  -  3 May 2021
  2. People are yearning for the one to one and a safe community to live life with. To hear us, to live with us, to inspire us, to question/challenge us and to share on a journey that matters. Thank you for this reflection. At the end of the week, I will reply to what the world is saying on my front lines.

    By Ridgely Johnson  -  4 May 2021
  3. Thanks Matt for sharing. ‘Be quick to listen, not to listen quickly’. This is quite humbling to me but it is a lesson worth learning in a fast moving world. Sometimes it isn’t easy when someone is opening up to you because they need somebody to listen to them, not to try to fill in a long silence. Listen patiently!
    Just before the first lockdown I went to visit a friend whom I had been calling but for some reason she wasn’t picking up my calls. She was relieved to see me on the day because she wasn’t in a good place at the time due to serious money issues. During our conversation she began to itemise all her ‘problems’ which I thought I was listening intently to. But then she revealed she went to find a train to end it all and then silence! We kept staring at each other for a while she expected me to say something but I was thinking how best to process the information I just heard. Tears began to roll down my cheeks because I had just suffered bereavement myself. My brother had gone to bed 7 weeks earlier and never woke up the next day and had left his 32 year old wife a widow. My pain was raw but my friend’s was more. All I did was hold her hand, told her what I was going through but reassured her that because she is still here there is hope for things to get better for her. Our faith is our hope. Jesus promised his disciples that he’d send them a helper after he’d gone. We have that helper who is there to HELP us be patient to listen.

    By Maria Omoigui  -  5 May 2021
    • Oh, Maria – so sorry for your loss, but what a powerful story you shared. Honoured to hear your experience, and inspired by your patient and caring listening ear, extended through a tear and loving touch. Blessings, today.

      By Dave Benson  -  6 May 2021
      • Just to add to what Dave shared – thank you for bravely sharing, Maria, truly humbling to hear. And thanks for the reminder that as we listen, often people want to feel heard more than they want to have their problems solved. May you continue to know the help of the Spirit as you listen well on your frontlines, and his blessing over your life.

        Matt Jolley
        By Matt Jolley Research & Implementation Manager
  4. Love this, thank you. ‘Being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.’ – so powerful for all of us to heed & practise.

    By Bruce Gulland  -  6 May 2021
    • Thanks for interacting, Bruce. Praying for you, as you live this out, right now 🙂

      By Dave Benson  -  7 May 2021
  5. I was once asked “Why do you think God has made us with TWO ears and ONE mouth?

    By Mrs Margaret Parkins  -  12 May 2021

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