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Barriers to Good Listening

Are you a good listener? Most Americans are poor listeners. Litfin explains that we are an EYE-oriented culture rather than EAR-oriented. Americans prefer visual input, especially young people who have grown up with electronic technology. The people in cultures where there is no written language or high incidences of illiteracy are EAR-oriented. In our culture, we say, “Can I have a copy of that?” or “I need to see it in writing.” We prefer “reading and storage” over “listening well and remembering.”[1] We must work harder on listening when it doesn’t come as naturally. Attention and listening skills are better in cultures that must depend on hearing and memory for information.

Common barriers to good listening include the following:[2]

  1. passive listening – Many people are lazy listeners. Listening is active, involving interaction of the listener and speaker in the process.
  2. interrupting – Many listeners are impatient to wait for the comment to end and eager to speak themselves. Conversation requires give and take; listening, then speaking.
  3. assumptions – People have a tendency to jump to a conclusion before a speaker finishes a thought. Making a wrong assumption is like jumping to a confusion!
  4. self-focus – In this “me–generation,” people are more interested in what they have to say than what others are saying. Listening requires focus on the speaker, not on self.
  5. past intrusion – Previous experiences or past failures may influence a listener. A good listener must be “in the moment” in order to understand the speaker.
  6. distraction – Drifting thoughts and poor attention hinder good listening. Distractions can be internal or external. Listeners must focus on the words being spoken in order to listen completely and correctly.
  7. defensiveness – Listeners may react strongly when they disagree or have another opinion. This verbal response has been described as duelogue vs. dialogue. Duelogue implies two people fighting with words as their weapons.[3]

Identifying one’s personal barriers to good listening is an important move in controlling these hindrances so listening may improve. Knowing personal weaknesses in listening is the first step toward improving listening skills.

Distraction is probably my biggest barrier to good listening. I am highly distracted internally by thoughts of everything I have to do. I am distracted externally by sights and sounds around me. When my husband and I go out to dinner, my natural desire is to face everyone and everything in the restaurant because of my curiosity. But to give Chuck my undivided attention, I must sit facing him–and maybe the wall–to tune out the distractions around me.

The Bible teaches about the importance of listening and warns against hasty speech. In James 1:19, the apostle admonishes: “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Commentary in the Life Application Bible for this verse includes an exercise for overcoming barriers to good listening. “Put a mental stopwatch on your conversations and keep track of how much you talk and how much you listen. In your conversations, do others feel that their viewpoints and ideas have been valued?”[4] Effective communicators break down personal barriers to listening in order to build up people while focusing on their messages. Have you been able to identify your own barriers to good listening? How can you become a more effective communicator by being a better listener?

            [1] Litfin, Public Speaking, 42.

            [2] Gronbeck et al., Principles of Speech Communication, 36-37.

            [3] “Duelogue,” http://www.examiner.com/article/monologue-dialogue-or-duelogue-how-savvy-are-you (cited 3 March 2013) examiner.com (Clarity Digital Group LLC, 2013).

            [4] Tyndale House, Life Application Bible: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987), 604.

Devoted Even Unto Death

Perpetua

In the third century, a young Christian woman and nursing mother named Perpetua demonstrated her devotion to the Lord even to death. She was asked by the authorities and her own father to deny her Christian faith in order to save her life, but she refused. Her words of faith spoke clearly: “Could this vase or flowerpot be called b any other name? I cannot be called anything other than I am, a Christian.” In an amphitheater before crowds of mockers, Perpetua and other martyrs were scourged by gladiators, mutilated by wild animals, and then killed by swords. She courageously spoke of her faith and then died for it.

As a Christian woman and as a speaker, it is of utmost necessity to evaluate your relationship with God. Your devotion to God will be reflected  by your readiness to speak out for Jesus whenever you are called upon, and also as you prepare to bring a biblical message from the Lord. Are you strong in your faith? Are you growing in Him? Are you becoming the woman God created you to be? If you desire your life to count for His glory, you must be walking with the Lord faithfully as you engage in Bible Study, spend time in prayer, serve the Lord in ministry, and speak a witness of His redeeming love.

We will be judged based on the motives behind our service to the Lord as revealed in 1 Corinthians 3:11-13: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.” (HCSB)

Bible study is essential for spiritual growth, and it is also an important source of information for preparing to speak a word from the Lord. Personal Bible study reveals not only the nature of God, it also teaches truths of the faith that can be shared with others. Devotional reading of the Bible as well as systematic study of the Word provide a biblical foundation for speeches and supportive material for points of the message.

Prayer is another vital element of spiritual growth for the Christian woman teacher to embrace daily! Prayer draws a believer closer to the Lord. God speaks to His children during times of prayer, and His children have the opportunity to speak their hearts to Him. Prayer also guides and directs a Christian who is preparing to speak, and prayer empowers the Christian while speaking. It is integral to the Christian life and essential for the Christian speaker.

Other important disciplines of the Christian faith are witnessing and service. All of these are needed for the spiritual growth and speech preparation of a Christian woman. However, these disciplines are not possible without complete devotion to the Lord. We must possess His strength to be able to be who He has called us to be. Being devoted in seeking Him is vital to the woman who is a Bible teacher, as she will be an example to many other women.

Devotion is not a word understood by or desired by the world. Most people are devoted only to themselves and their own desires. But the Bible teaches believers to be devoted to the Lord and follow Him wholeheartedly. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and man.”

The dictionary defines devotion as “ardent, often selfless affection and dedication,” It is loyalty and enthusiasm for a person activity or cause. It is literally pure love, the knowledge that one would actually give up life to protect or defend another without question or hesitation. For Christians, devotion is pure love of the Lord, a sincere expression of total faith through prayer and worship.

Devotion to the Lord helps a Christian be prepared at all times to speak out for Jesus, much like Perpetua. Personal commitment to the task of public speaking will also help a Christian speaker develop skills for the task. Those who think about the process of communication, learn about public speaking, study speaking techniques, and practice specific principles will undoubtedly become much more effective public speakers.