we hear you
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Sorry for ending the sentence with a preposition, but I thought “Becoming a person to whom others listen” sounded kinda high-falootin’ and might not really communicate what I was hoping… I promise to try and get gooder at this down the road…

We want to be people who can influence others with our opinions, beliefs, and convictions. That’s why we write letters to the editor, leave comments on websites, and put stuff on social media.

But sometimes (most of the time?), we might as well be talking to a wall because no one seems to be responding with “Oh WOW – I never thought of it that way. I’m changing my complete perspective right now based solely on the wisdom displayed in that political cartoon lampooning Kamala Harris. Thank you so much!”

In this episode, Josh and I discuss how to become people others listen to and consider when it comes to important stuff, whether that’s politics, faith, or whatever you find yourself discussing with others.

Some of this might sound familiar from the last episode, because we talked a little bit about some of these things, but today we get to go a little deeper on some of them.

Be discerning.

In other words, don’t believe everything you see, ESPECIALLY ON THE INTERNET.

Take the time to actually see if what you’re reading/hearing is actually from a reliable source – and we don’t mean just your Facebook friend. Just because a friend passes something on doesn’t mean it’s automatically factually correct.

I’ve been called out on this, and it’s embarrassing to find out you’ve been duped because your well-meaning friend posted something that was actually false.

And related to that, don’t post it unless you can verify it. Again, it’s no fun being called out for passing along false information.

Christians are COMMANDED by God to be discerning. When we aren’t, we show a level of gullibility that has no business among God’s people.

In the last episode I mentioned Proctor and Gamble. There are also fake liberal sites meant to trick conservatives. In other words, they post made-up stories to see how many conservatives simply copy and paste instead of researching whether or not it’s true.

We can’t be doing that, folks. It’s foolish, and casts a bad look on Jesus and His Church around the US and the world.

Respond instead of reacting.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, says in his letter that we are to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19-20)

I honestly think that if more Christians would take that passage seriously, we’d go a long way to busting the negative stereotypes of Christians and actually being positive influences for Christ.

This means taking time to digest what you’re taking in, considering the sources, whether or not it’s true, and whether or not it’s actually useful or edifying to people, especially anyone you want to share it with.

It also means taking time to thoughtfully craft a response that is pertinent to whatever it is – in other words addresses the actual issue being brought up – and shows you’ve actually made the effort to understand before responding.

You might need to wait a day or two or more to digest and craft a response. You might need to wait a week or two. The world won’t end if you don’t get your response out right away. Take the time necessary to get past the initial emotional response and talking point rebuttals. Your impact will be greater because you will have shown that you are more thoughtful than the average evangelical bear…

And guess what? This might actually mean NOT responding.

News flash: you don’t have to respond to everything you see, read, or hear, especially on your social media feeds.

Display a willingness to learn.

Here’s another news flash: the person you’re arguing with might actually have a better grasp on an issue than you!

When I joined the staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I learned very quickly that not everyone – and not every Christian or Christian leader viewed things through my upper midwest white conservative theological, social, and political lens. That was a huge wake-up call for me. It really forced me to think about WHY I believed things, and HOW I came to believe them, particularly in the social and political realms.

I found out that people can be conservative in their theology and yet have what would be considered liberal positions socially and politically, at least in this very “red” part of the USA.

I had to learn that there are people who love Jesus and the Scriptures every bit as much as I do – maybe even more – but would vote completely differently than I would. That was hard for me to swallow, and I still struggle with some of that.

But as we talked about in the last episode, we also need to recognize that our experiences don’t necessarily translate to other areas of the country and the situations faced there.

We need to be willing to learn, even from sources we disagree with.

I like the way our local newspaper carries columns from both liberal and conservative voices. I try to intentionally read those from the liberals so I can learn where they’re coming from, even if I never agree with them.

In a future episode, we’re going to discuss the value of reading and learning from those you disagree with, but let me encourage you to do it. It’s hard at times, but you might even find something you DO agree with (gasp!).

Be willing to listen and learn, even when it’s difficult to hear. It’s a sign of maturity that you can wade into uncomfortable settings to better understand something.

Learn to communicate in ways that show you care.

Christians shouldn’t be known for ranting. Scripture says we’re supposed to GENTLY INSTRUCT those who oppose us.

No one is willing to learn from someone who rants. But many are willing to listen to someone who knows how to communicate in a civil, grown-up manner.

When someone is yelling about how wrong they think I am about something, I automatically shut them out. I think most people do. But there have been instances where I’ve been shown to be in error or just when I’ve been asked to consider a different viewpoint – and I do, simply because the person I’m talking to is talking like a grown-up and not a spoiled toddler.

Those are just some thoughts running through my brain as I think through the interactions I’ve had with people over the years, especially about political stuff.

And the thing is, many Christians don’t do this stuff. They blindly believe whatever their favorite president/preacher/teacher says about things without bothering to check out whether it’s true or not, or whether or not it’s even worth wasting their time about.

Folks, don’t follow that pattern. Show that you’re not going to let Facebook or your political party do your thinking and speaking for you. You’re better than that.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit to help you become more discerning, caring, and more Christlike in how you communicate and interact with people.

Let Him speak to you through the Scriptures to transform you to be more like Jesus – and watch what He does to help you become someone others will listen to. Ask Him to display His fruit in every area of your life, and especially when trying to influence others. If the fruit is not evident in your responses, you need to step away.

Be intentional about becoming someone others listen to – even if they disagree.

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We want discipleship to be part of your church’s DNA. Our mission is to help churches create a culture where establishing new believers, maintaining long-term discipleship relationships, and reproducing disciples becomes part of who you ARE as a church, not just something you DO as a church.