Imitate the Great Disciple Maker

“Pay attention to how you listen.”—LUKE 8:18.

JESUS CHRIST was fulfilling his role as the Great Teacher and Disciple Maker when he told his followers: “Pay attention to how you listen.” (Luke 8:16-18) That principle applies to your ministry as a Christian. If you pay attention to spiritual instruction, you will act on it and be an effective Kingdom proclaimer. Of course, you cannot hear the voice of Jesus today, but you can read about what he said and did, as revealed in the Scriptures. What do they disclose about the way Jesus dealt with people during his ministry?

2 Jesus was an excellent preacher of the good news and an outstanding teacher of Scriptural truth. (Luke 8:1; John 8:28) The work of making disciples involves both preaching and teaching, yet some Christians who are commendable preachers find it difficult to teach people effectively. Whereas preaching involves proclaiming a message, teaching people about Jehovah and his purposes usually requires that a disciple-maker build a relationship with them. (Matthew 28:19, 20) This can be done by imitating Jesus Christ, the Great Teacher and Disciple Maker.—John 13:13.

3 If you imitate Jesus’ teaching methods, you will be complying with the apostle Paul’s admonition: “Go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside, buying out the opportune time for yourselves. Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” (Colossians 4:5, 6) Imitating Jesus in the work of making disciples calls for effort, but it will make your teaching effective because it will help you “to give an answer to each one” according to his individual need.

Jesus Encouraged Others to Speak

4 From childhood on, Jesus had the custom of listening to people and encouraging them to express their views. When he was 12 years old, for example, his parents found him in the midst of the teachers in the temple, “listening to them and questioning them.” (Luke 2:46) Jesus did not go to the temple to embarrass the teachers with his knowledge. He went there to listen, although he also asked questions. His inclination to be a good listener may have been one quality that gained him favor with God and men.—Luke 2:52.

5 After his baptism and anointing as the Messiah, Jesus maintained his interest in listening to people. He did not become so absorbed in what he was teaching that he forgot about those who came to hear him speak. Often, he would pause, ask what they thought, and listen to their response. (Matthew 16:13-15) For example, after the death of Martha’s brother, Lazarus, Jesus told her: “Everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.” He then asked her: “Do you believe this?” And Jesus surely listened as Martha replied: “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ the Son of God.” (John 11:26, 27) How satisfying it must have been to hear Martha express her faith in that way!

6 When many disciples abandoned Jesus, he was interested in hearing the viewpoint of his apostles. So he asked: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Simon Peter answered: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69) How those words must have pleased Jesus! A Bible student’s similar expression of faith will certainly delight you.

Jesus Listened With Respect

7 Another reason why Jesus was an effective disciple-maker is that he cared about people and listened to them with respect. On one occasion, for instance, Jesus witnessed to a Samaritan woman near Jacob’s fountain at Sychar. During that discussion, Jesus did not do all the talking; he listened to what she had to say. While listening to her, Jesus noted her interest in worship and told her that God was looking for those who would worship Him with spirit and truth. Jesus showed respect and concern for this woman, whereupon she told others about him, and “many of the Samaritans out of that city put faith in him on account of the word of the woman.”—John 4:5-29, 39-42.

8 People usually enjoy expressing their views. For example, residents of ancient Athens enjoyed giving their opinions and listening to something new. This led to the apostle Paul’s effective discourse on the Areopagus in that city. (Acts 17:18-34) When starting a conversation with a householder in your ministry today, you might say, “I am visiting you because I am interested in your opinion regarding [a certain topic].” Listen to the person’s viewpoint, and comment on it, or ask a question about it. Then kindly show what the Bible says on the subject.

Jesus Knew What to Say

9 Jesus was never at a loss for words. Besides being a good listener, he was often aware of what people were thinking, and he knew exactly what to say. (Matthew 9:4; 12:22-30; Luke 9:46, 47) To illustrate: Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, two of his disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. “As they were conversing and discussing,” says the Gospel account, “Jesus himself approached and began walking with them; but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. He said to them: ‘What are these matters that you are debating between yourselves as you walk along?’ And they stood still with sad faces. In answer the one named Cleopas said to him: ‘Are you dwelling as an alien by yourself in Jerusalem and so do not know the things that have occurred in her in these days?’ And he said to them: ‘What things?’” The Great Teacher listened as they explained that Jesus the Nazarene taught people, performed miracles, and was executed. Now some were saying that he had been raised from the dead. Jesus let Cleopas and his companion express themselves. Then he explained what they needed to know, “fully opening up the Scriptures” to them.—Luke 24:13-27, 32.

10 You may know nothing about the religious viewpoint of a certain householder. To find out what it is, you might say that you enjoy listening to what people think about prayer. Then you might ask, “Do you think anyone really listens to prayers?” The answer may reveal a lot about the person’s viewpoint and religious background. If he is religiously inclined, you may be able to draw him out further by asking, “Do you think God listens to all prayers, or might there be some prayers he does not approve of?” Such questions can lead to a relaxed conversation. When it is appropriate to share a Scriptural thought, you will want to do so tactfully, not attacking what the person believes. If he enjoys listening to you, he may be pleased to have you come back. But suppose he asks a question you cannot answer? You can do some research and return prepared to provide ‘a reason for your hope, doing so with a mild temper and deep respect.’—1 Peter 3:15.

Jesus Taught Deserving Ones

11 The perfect man Jesus had discernment that enabled him to identify those who deserved to be taught. We find it much more of a challenge to locate those “rightly disposed for everlasting life.” (Acts 13:48) So did the apostles to whom Jesus said: “Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving.” (Matthew 10:11) Like Jesus’ apostles, you must search for people who are willing to listen and to be taught Scriptural truth. You can find deserving ones by listening carefully to one person after another, taking note of the attitude of each individual.

12 After leaving a person who has shown some interest in the Kingdom message, you will do well to continue thinking about his spiritual needs. If you write down what you have learned after conversing with someone about the good news, this will help you to keep on assisting the person spiritually. During return visits, you need to listen carefully if you are to learn more about the individual’s beliefs, attitude, or circumstances.

13 How can you encourage people to tell you how they feel about God’s Word? In some areas, it is effective to ask, “Have you found the Bible hard to understand?” The answer to that question often reveals a person’s attitude toward spiritual matters. Another way is to read a scripture and ask, “How does that sound to you?” Like Jesus, you may accomplish much in your ministry by using good questions. However, a word of caution is in order.

Jesus Used Questions Effectively

14 Show interest in the viewpoint of others without making them uncomfortable. Follow Jesus’ method. He was not a tactless interrogator, but he used thought-provoking questions. Jesus was also a kind listener who refreshed sincere people and put them at ease. (Matthew 11:28) All sorts of people felt free to approach him with their concerns. (Mark 1:40; 5:35, 36; 10:13, 17, 46, 47) If individuals are to feel at ease telling you what they think about the Bible and its teachings, you must avoid interrogating them.

15 In addition to using questions effectively, you can encourage conversation by saying something interesting and then listening to the response. For instance, Jesus told Nicodemus: “Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Those words were so intriguing that Nicodemus could not hold back from responding and listening to Jesus. (John 3:4-20) You may be able to draw people into conversations in a similar way.

16 Today, the appearance of many new religions is a talking point in such places as Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. In places like these, you can often start a conversation by saying: “I am concerned that there are so many religions. But I hope soon to see people from all nations united in true worship. Does that sound good to you?” By saying something surprising about your hope, you may be able to get people to express their view. And questions are easier to answer when there are two possible replies. (Matthew 17:25) After a householder has commented on your question, answer it yourself with a scripture or two. (Isaiah 11:9; Zephaniah 3:9) By listening carefully and noting the person’s response, you may be able to determine what to discuss the next time you call.

Jesus Listened to Children

17 Jesus was interested not only in adults but also in children. He knew about the games youngsters played and the things they said. Sometimes he would invite children to come to him. (Luke 7:31, 32; 18:15-17) Many children were among the crowds listening to Jesus. When young boys shouted out in praise of the Messiah, Jesus took note and showed that the Scriptures had foretold this. (Matthew 14:21; 15:38; 21:15, 16) Today, many children are becoming disciples of Jesus. So how can you help them?

18 To help your child spiritually, you must listen to him. You need to understand what ideas he has that may be out of harmony with Jehovah’s thinking. Regardless of what your child says, it is wise to respond first with a positive remark. Then you can use appropriate scriptures to help your child understand Jehovah’s view of matters.

19 Questions have their place. But children do not enjoy being interrogated any more than adults do. Rather than place on your child the burden of answering a number of difficult questions, why not make a brief statement about yourself? Depending on the matter under discussion, you might say that you used to feel a certain way and explain why. Then you might ask, “Do you feel that way too?” Your child’s response may well lead to a helpful and encouraging Scriptural discussion.

Keep On Imitating the Great Disciple Maker

20 Whether you are discussing a subject with your child or anyone else, good listening is vital. Indeed, it is an expression of love. By listening, you are acting in a humble way, and the one speaking is being shown respect and loving consideration. Of course, listening requires that you pay attention to the person’s expressions.

21 As you engage in the Christian ministry, keep on listening carefully to the householders. If you pay close attention to what they say, you are likely to discern which aspects of Bible truth will be especially appealing to them. Then endeavor to help them by employing Jesus’ various methods of teaching. As you do so, you will be rewarded with joy and satisfaction because you are imitating the Great Disciple Maker.

How Would You Answer?

• How did Jesus encourage others to express their thoughts?

• Why did Jesus listen to those whom he taught?

• How can you use questions in your ministry?

• What can you do to help children spiritually?

[Study Questions]

1, 2. Why should you pay attention to how Jesus dealt with people during his ministry?

 3. Imitating Jesus can have what effect on your efforts to make disciples?

 4. Why can it be said that Jesus was a good listener?

5, 6. How do we know that Jesus listened to the expressions of those whom he taught?

 7. Why did many Samaritans come to put faith in Jesus?

 8. How can the tendency of people to give their opinions help you to start conversations in the ministry?

 9. What did Jesus do before “fully opening up the Scriptures” to Cleopas and his companion?

10. How might you find out the religious viewpoint of a person whom you meet in your ministry?

11. What will help you to find those who deserve to be taught?

12. How can you continue to help an interested person?

13. What may help you to discern a person’s feelings about the Bible?

14. Without interrogating people, how can you show interest in their viewpoint?

15, 16. How can you draw people into conversations about religious matters?

17. What shows that Jesus was interested in children?

18, 19. How can you help your child spiritually?

20, 21. Why should you be a good listener in your work as a disciple maker?

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When preaching, be sure to listen

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We imitate Jesus when we help children spiritually