Reaching the Heart of Your Listeners
1-4. Why is the heart of importance to us as ministers?
1 The apostle Paul did not cease praying to Jehovah, in behalf of those to whom he had preached the good news, that ‘the eyes of their heart might be enlightened.’ (Eph. 1:16-18) Note that he spoke here, not of the mind, but of the heart, as being enlightened. What did he mean? To be effective speakers and teachers, we need to understand this matter.
2 Through Paul the spirit of Jehovah was revealing just what it had spoken through other loyal servants of the great Estimator of hearts. (Prov. 21:2) For example, to his royal heir, aged King David gave this sound counsel: “My son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul; for all hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning. If you search for him, he will let himself be found by you; but if you leave him, he will cast you off forever.” (1 Chron. 28:9) Genuine worship from the heart is what brings delight to the Creator.
3 The Greater David, Jesus Christ, offered similar wise counsel when he taught: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.” (Mark 12:28-30) In the matter of pleasing God, what is in the creature’s heart is of prime importance. When we appreciate this, the words of Proverbs 4:23 come home to us with greater force: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”
4 This matter of reaching and impressing the heart of each listener must be of concern to all who preach and teach the good news of God’s kingdom. It is of concern to the Christian parent when teaching children, and to each minister who conducts a home Bible study with those who will listen to the good news. It deserves careful consideration by brothers who teach from the platform. In all such circumstances we endeavor to communicate the precious message of truth to the minds of others. But we should try to do much more. We want to reach hearts. We want to induce others to ‘give their heart to the great heavenly Father.’—Prov. 23:26.
5, 6. Why must we endeavor to do more than simply convey knowledge to the minds of other people?
5 Distinguishing between mind and heart. A capable teacher of the good news can impart knowledge to the minds of listeners. Soon the student or listener is able to repeat and explain the teaching himself. He has grasped it and it has become imbedded in his mind. But the questions arise, What is he going to do about it? Is he interested only in taking in knowledge, or is the knowledge going to motivate him to action?
6 This is where the heart comes in, for in the Bible it is associated with motivation. The true worshiper of God can say with the inspired Bible writer: “In my heart I have treasured up your saying, in order that I may not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11) A person could take excellent knowledge about God’s purposes into his mind, could grasp many of the fine principles of the Bible, and yet not have it in his heart to apply those principles and that knowledge to his own course in life. Many persons have heard the refreshing truths of God’s Word, but when it comes to applying them in their lives or extending the same opportunity to others—they just do not have the heart for such lifesaving activity.
7, 8. Show the difference between the mind and the heart.
7 The mind must of necessity take in and digest information. It is the seat of intellect, the knowledge-processing center. It assembles information and by process of reason and logic it reaches certain conclusions. And the Scriptures indicate that it is, in some amazing way, directly related to the heart. The heart has a vital role, for with it are associated the affections and motivation. The heart’s direction of one’s whole course in life becomes evident to onlookers. They find out eventually what the person really is on the inside. But Jehovah at all times knows “the secret person of the heart.”—1 Pet. 3:3, 4.
8 At times the heart may overrule the conclusions of the mind, giving motivation that favors and elevates emotion or desire over logical reasoning. Not only does a person have to know with his mind what is right in Jehovah’s eyes, but he has to have the desire in his heart to follow that course. This ability of the heart to select between optional courses and fix its design on one of them explains why the Bible speaks of the heart of man as ‘making plans’ and ‘thinking out [fixing his mind on] his ways.’ (Prov. 19:21; 16:9) Unless circumstances more or less oblige them to do otherwise, persons will follow the course that appeals to their hearts. This is particularly true when it comes to moral and spiritual matters.—Matt. 5:28.
9, 10. What will help us to reach the heart of a student?
9 Reaching hearts. How, then, is the Christian teacher to reach people’s hearts? One way is to encourage learners to ponder appreciatively on the things learned. Remember how it is recounted of Mary, the fleshly mother of Jesus, that she “carefully kept all these sayings in her heart.” (Luke 2:51) The record does not say “in her memory,” though that too was involved. It was in her heart, the seat of affection and motivation, so that she later became a faithful Christian. To help students today to get the truth in their hearts, take enough time to develop key points in a satisfying way. Do not try to cover too much material.
10 Questions are very helpful in determining if Bible truths under consideration are actually taking root in the hearts of students. After discussing new truths you may wish to ask, “How do you feel about this now? Is it what you believe?” Practice doing that when you give student talks. Only by determining what is in a person’s heart can we help him to progress in Jehovah’s service.
11. How can we emphasize to a student the importance of one’s relationship to Jehovah?
11 To impress God’s Word on their heart, the students you teach need to be helped to think in terms of their own relationship to Jehovah. And where is a better place for you to work to develop this ability than when caring for assignments in the ministry school? Encourage those whom you teach to trust in Jehovah with their whole heart, because of love for him, and because of his love for us. By well-placed questions, you can direct their attention to the fact that what they are learning in the Bible is from our loving Creator, Jehovah, who “is very tender in affection and merciful.” (Jas. 5:11) Week by week, if you are conducting a study, emphasize Jehovah’s love and wisdom as manifest in the marvelous truths that you are studying together. Encourage the students to see how their own lives are affected and how they will be affected in the days ahead. Review Bible principles with them frequently so that these become very familiar to them. Help them to cultivate the habit of always seeking to ascertain the heavenly Father’s will in any matter before making a decision. Gradually you will be helping them to realize that our lives and everything we have belong to God, for “he himself gives to all persons life and breath and all things”; and that his worship, his service, should be foremost in both our heart and our mind.—Acts 17:25.
12-14. What do students need to learn about motive, and how can a person analyze his motives?
12 From time to time bring up the point that with God it is not only what we do that counts, but our motive in doing it. He wants us to take pleasure in doing his will. Like the father in the book of Proverbs, so our heavenly Father invites us: “My son, to my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. May they not get away from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh.”—Prov. 4:20-22.
13 So those whom you teach can be encouraged to analyze their motives for doing things and to ask themselves such questions as: Why do I want to do this or that? What is impelling me to select this certain course of action? I know what my mind says, but what is actually in my heart? Am I seeking to please God or to gratify my own desires? Is my reasoning truly sincere? Or am I trying to deceive myself by false reasoning?
14 Students can be warned, too, of dangers and deceptions that imperil the unwary. For example, a person might have his heart set on some goal, perhaps quite legitimate of itself, but one that interferes to some extent with one’s worship or service to Jehovah. Pointedly the inspired proverb has this to say: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid, but he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.”—Prov. 28:26.
15-17. How can the example of Jesus and discussions about prayer benefit the heart?
15 Finally, it is good to keep before students the perfect example we have in the Lord Jesus. He was loyal to his heavenly Father. It was because he ‘loved righteousness and hated wickedness that Jehovah anointed him with the oil of exultation more than all others.’ (Ps. 45:7) How did he maintain that right condition of heart? He studied not only to know God but also to please God. He ever had in mind the will of the Father. Jesus regularly sought out his Father in prayer. By his prayers he was asking God, in effect, to ‘examine him and put him to the test, to refine his kidneys and try his heart.’ (Ps. 26:2) He did not want to rely on merely his own reasoning or his own heart’s promptings. “Father, . . . not what I want, but what you want,” was his prayerful decision as his foretold sacrificial death neared.—Mark 14:36.
16 Is that not a fine example to hold before students? They, too, can be helped to seek God’s direction in their lives through prayer—earnest, heartfelt prayer for wisdom to follow the God-approved course. Read them some of Jesus’ prayers. When Jesus came to earth he prayed to God as His Son. Teaching his followers how to pray, Jesus started the model prayer: “Our Father in the heavens.” (Matt. 6:9) So the one praying should be as a son approaching a father. Perhaps more than anything else our prayers show what kind of relationship we have with Jehovah. Is that relationship a warm, trusting, intimate one as of a son or daughter with a father who is respected and loved with all one’s heart? Or is it just that of a mere speaking acquaintance as with a neighbor or a fairly good friend? Strive to reach the heart of the ones to whom you speak and with whom you study by discussing prayer with them, how they feel about it and the things for which they pray.—Prov. 15:8, 29.
17 In view of the importance that God places on hearts, we too need to give careful consideration to the heart when teaching his Word. Whether giving a public talk or a student talk or conducting a home Bible study, do not make coverage of large amounts of material your chief aim. Take the time needed to help others to draw close to Jehovah and to get his Word firmly imbedded in their heart.