In This Issue: Ninety percent listening
- Feature: Mobilization. It’s Ninety Percent Listening.
- Additional Resources
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A few weeks ago we published a Practical Mobilization column about growing in our capacity to listen. Many of you told us you appreciated that article. Some wrote to share struggles or experiences. “Good word!” one reader tweeted. “I’ve said for years 90% of mobilization is listening.” I couldn’t let that line just slide by: I asked him to tell us more about it.
Don’t think of yourself as a mission mobilizer? If you can see God using you to awaken and engage others in his global purposes, you may be one after all. If not, let us know if the article below still speaks to you!
FEATURE: Mobilization. It’s Ninety Percent Listening.
Source: Bryan Padgett
For a number of years I traveled the country speaking to college students, teaching close to 25,000 about God’s global vision and meeting personally with nearly 1500 of them. When I first began, I now realize I spoke “at” students. I had something to say, and they were the ones who needed to listen! I was ready for any push back, though, and I always walked away feeling like I had done my job.
But what was my job? If it was merely to inform, share statistics, and provide practical application, then sure, I did my job. My job, though, was really to mobilize these students toward God’s global mission. I soon came to realize that while statistics and practical applications were useful and necessary, I was in danger of completely missing the person right in front of me.
A Process of Discovery
People are really complex! When they seek advice and we just, well, give them advice, we risk missing a host of issues that would block them from taking action. When they “ignore” our advice, we might consider them unteachable or have another character flaw. But there may be significant obstacles.
The obvious issues like opposition from family or fear of leaving the familiar and learning a language may not be the real obstacles. I believe the real obstacles are at the heart level. I’ve never met the guy that just comes right out with them. You know, the guy who says, “I want to lead a team to the Muslim world, and you should know I don’t respond well to authority. Also, when things don’t go my way, I quit and do something else.” This guy is really going to struggle with an agency or anyone else telling him to do anything other than exactly what he wants to do.
How can we discover those kinds of obstacles? You have to dig by asking great questions and then listening to the answers. Ninety percent of mobilization is listening.
Messy and Slow
If you go to a conference, event, or training for mission mobilizers, the major focus will often be on strategies, resources, and how to answer common questions posed by potential missionaries. These are useful and necessary conversations. You will rarely, however, get trained in active listening.
Our intentions are great. We want to see God’s mission completed, and we believe all of us are to be part of this. What we miss is that we are dealing with people, and people have issues. It is messy work. You cannot mass-produce missionaries. If you try to do so, the fruit will not last. My personal belief is that high attrition rates are due in large part to a lack of “whole-person” mobilization, and that can be rooted in a lack of listening.
As mobilizers, we must slow down. Listening well takes time. Rushing people to the field will probably only ensure that they come home about as quick as we send them.
We must seek depth in our mobilization. Some of us may be engaged in broad efforts that do not permit us to go very deep. However, even if you are on the road a lot, you have to live somewhere. Can you have a few people around you that you are engaging at a deeper level?
How a Mobilizer Listens
Listening can play a key part in your effectiveness as a mobilizer, whether it’s a one-time meeting or an ongoing relationship.
1. Learn to ask good questions – and lots of them. Ask multiple questions before you ever begin to give advice. Listen in a way that you can piece together the many things swirling around in someone’s heart and mind.
2. After asking and listening, begin to connect the dots for them if you can. Present them with a few options – not hundreds, and not just one (unless the fit is very clear). Be sure you are networked and resourced well so you can pass them off to people you’ve met or organizations you trust.
3. Point them back to those that know them and love them most, and encourage them to listen their counsel. You cannot be a mentor or counselor to everyone, and it’s better to acknowledge that than to pretend you can give them an honest assessment of what to do next. Encourage them to be discipled if they are not currently in that type of relationship.
Following these three points is not going to make anyone a rock-star mobilizer. That’s not the point. They will give you a starting point to help engage the person more fully, as well as seek to help them more holistically.
Yes, you can still challenge views and beliefs. If fact, in most cases you need to, because people think of everything in the framework of their daily lives and will not be able to see beyond it. Can you help them see God’s global vision and what it has to do with their lives, no matter where they live? Only when you listen to people can you begin to see how much they understand or what their blind spots might be.
Discipling More Deeply
What if you are not mobilizing broadly, but engaging more in-depth with the people close to you? The good news is that you can be that someone one who knows the person best and offers wise counsel. Meet regularly with those you hope to mobilize. Get together with them individually or as a group. Teach them how to walk faithfully with God. Listen long enough to know which direction to take them. And remember, cookie-cutter approaches to discipleship and mobilization may get you started, but they are often ineffective without a more personal touch.
I close with what I think is the most important point of all. You absolutely have to listen to God. It is not optional. I’ve heard it said, “The true work of mobilization is prayer.” I agree with this wholeheartedly. Pray for those you seek to mobilize. Pray God gives you the ability to listen well – to him, as well as to them.
I encourage you to slow down in mobilization. Take more time to listen than you do to speak. Remember that God is far more interested in completing the task than any of us ever will. He is also far more interested in making us holy than any of us ever will be. The missionaries he sends are not just there to complete a task but to become more like Jesus.
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Source: Missions Catalyst
Want more about topics in this article? See the following:
Design and Fit: Nurturing the Call of God in the Mobilization of Mission Candidates (article by Mark Stebbins, The Navigators).
» Readers, what kinds of questions would you ask potential missionaries? See suggestions from several mobilizers in the comments below.