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Jesus often said, ``He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’’ (Mk.4:9) He also understood that some people would continually hear but never understand. Some people need help in sharpening their listening skills. Here are several suggestions that should help your congregation improve their ability to listen, hear, and understand all that is being communicated!

1. Begin by explaining from the parable of the sower and seed in Mark 4:1-22 the different levels of listeners:

A. The resistant, closed and shallow listeners -These folks are compared to crusty roadside - the hardheads who are closed to new insights. They prefer to remain impenetrable to what God wants them to know.

B. The open but superficial listeners These people listen for the facts that are being shared, but fail to grasp the crucial principles. For this reason the new ideas are quickly forgotten. Because the thoughts are not really understood, the truth is not given sufficient opportunities to mature in the minds of the hearers.

C. The open but distracted listener -These people are open to truth, but allow the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life to deter them from focusing on what its applications. Since their minds are so cluttered that they cannot focus on the true meaning of scripture, the word is not allowed to produce fruit in their lives.

D. The responsive and obedient listener - These people listen, understand, and obediently apply the scriptures to their lives by faith. They continually remain open to new insights. They are searching for new insights into the scriptures constantly. The responsive feed on the scriptures as food for their nourishment, growth, and vitality. They are not content to just feed, but they search for ways to teach, preach, and use the insights they gain.

In order to help more of your people ascend to the highest level of listening we must examine some of the characteristics of the responsive and obedient listener:

1. He is discriminating, discerning, and determinative in what he hears. In other words, he is not gullible believing anything that people tell him. He is able to discern the degrees of truth and sort out half-truths out of each message. A smart communicator will learn to target his message to certain key people in his audience. These will then become the catalysts, change agents, clarifiers, elaborators, interpreters, & models to the majority after the message is completed.

2. He is willing to be truly attentive to all the facts, emotions, ideas, implications, and applications of whoever is speaking. In other words he is willing to put aside some of his prejudices against the speaker to value what is being said.

3. He is willing to reconsider some certain parts of his mind filters (Biases, Emotions, Presuppositions, Values, Beliefs, and viewpoints). This does not mean that a listener gives up his viewpoints, but is willing to see things from another’s perspective.

4. He is interested in perceiving ideas from another person’s framework. Appreciating another’s culture, experience, education, personality, context, or background shows a real mark of maturity for a listener.

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