WHEN sharing Bible truths with others, we need to do more than inform the mind. We must appeal to the heart. One way to do this is by showing a sincere personal interest in our listeners. Such interest can be demonstrated in a variety of ways.
Consider Your Listeners’ Viewpoint. The apostle Paul took into consideration the background and thinking of his listeners. He explained: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, that I might gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, that I might by all means save some. But I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.” (1 Cor. 9:20-23) How can we “become all things to people of all sorts” today?
If you have the opportunity to observe others, even briefly, before speaking with them, you may notice indications of their interests and circumstances. Can you tell what their occupation is? Do you see evidence of their religious beliefs? Is there an indication of their family situation? Based on what you observe, can you adjust your presentation to make it more appealing to your listeners?
Making your presentation more appealing requires that you give advance thought to how you will approach the people in your territory. In some areas, this includes those who have moved in from foreign lands. If such people live in your territory, have you found an effective way to witness to them? Since it is God’s will that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth,” make it your aim to present the Kingdom message in an appealing way to all whom you meet.—1 Tim. 2:4.
Listen Attentively. Although Jehovah is all-knowing, he listens to others. The prophet Micaiah received a vision in which Jehovah was seen encouraging the angels to express their ideas on the handling of a certain matter. God then allowed one of the angels to carry out the suggestion the angel had made. (1 Ki. 22:19-22) When Abraham expressed concern over the judgment that would be executed upon Sodom, Jehovah graciously heard him out. (Gen. 18:23-33) In our ministry, how can we imitate Jehovah’s example of listening?
Encourage others to express themselves. Ask an appropriate question, and pause long enough for them to reply. Really listen. Your thoughtful attention will encourage them to speak freely. If their response reveals something about their interests, tactfully inquire further. Without turning the conversation into a cross-examination, seek to get to know them better. Commend them for their thoughts if you can do so sincerely. Even if you do not agree with their point of view, be gracious in acknowledging their expressions.—Col. 4:6.
We need to exercise caution, however, that our interest in people does not cross the line of propriety. Being concerned about others does not give us license to pry into their private affairs. (1 Pet. 4:15) We need to exercise care that a person of the opposite sex does not misunderstand the kindly interest that we show. Since what is considered an appropriate degree of interest in others varies from land to land, even from person to person, good judgment is needed.—Luke 6:31.
Preparation is an aid to being a good listener. When our message is clear in our mind, it helps us to relax and to pay attention to others in a natural way. This puts them at ease and may make them more inclined to converse with us.
We show honor to others by listening to them. (Rom. 12:10) It gives evidence that we value their thoughts and feelings. It may even cause them to pay closer attention to what we have to say. With good reason, then, God’s Word counsels us to “be swift about hearing, slow about speaking.”—Jas. 1:19.
Help Others to Progress. Concern for others will cause us to keep thinking about those who show interest and to call again on them to share the Bible truths that most directly fill their needs. When contemplating the next call, consider what you learned about them during previous visits. Prepare information on a subject they care about. Highlight the practical value of the material, helping them to see how they can benefit from what they are learning.—Isa. 48:17.
If your listener reveals a situation or problem that has been weighing on his mind, view this as a special opportunity to share the good news with him. Follow the example of Jesus, who was always ready to console those in distress. (Mark 6:31-34) Resist the temptation to offer a quick solution or to give superficial advice. This might cause the person to feel that you lack a sincere interest. Instead, show fellow feeling. (1 Pet. 3:8) Then do research in Bible-based publications, and share upbuilding information to help the person deal with his situation. Of course, loving concern for your listener will prevent you from revealing confidential matters he shares with you unless there is good reason to do so.—Prov. 25:9.
Especially should we show a personal interest in those with whom we conduct Bible studies. Give prayerful thought to the needs of each student, and prepare for the study with those needs in mind. Ask yourself, ‘What does he or she need to do next to keep making spiritual progress?’ Lovingly help the student to appreciate what the Bible and the publications of “the faithful and discreet slave” say on the matter. (Matt. 24:45) In some instances, just providing an explanation may not be enough. You may need to show the student how to apply a certain Bible principle, actually doing something together that demonstrates its application.—John 13:1-15.
Balance and good judgment are needed when assisting others to bring their lives into harmony with Jehovah’s standards. People have different backgrounds and abilities, and they progress at different rates. Be reasonable in what you expect of others. (Phil. 4:5) Do not pressure them to make changes in their lives. Allow God’s Word and his spirit to motivate them. Jehovah wants people to serve him out of a willing heart, not under compulsion. (Ps. 110:3) Avoid expressing your own opinions about personal decisions they face, and even if others ask you to do so, be careful not to make decisions for them.—Gal. 6:5.
Give Practical Assistance. Though Jesus was primarily concerned with the spiritual welfare of his listeners, he was sensitive to their other needs as well. (Matt. 15:32) Even if we are of limited means, there are many practical ways in which we can be helpful.
Interest in others will prompt us to be considerate. For example, if weather conditions are causing discomfort to your listener, move to a more suitable location, or arrange to continue the discussion at another time. If you have called at an inconvenient time, offer to return later. If a neighbor or someone who has shown interest is sick or in the hospital, show your concern by sending him a card or a short letter or by paying him a visit. If appropriate, you might also provide a simple meal or do some other kindness.
As Bible students progress, they may feel an emotional void because of not spending as much time with former associates. Befriend them. Spend time talking with them after their Bible study and at other times. Encourage them to cultivate good associations. (Prov. 13:20) Help them to attend Christian meetings. Sit with them at such gatherings, and assist them with their children so that all can benefit more fully from the program.
Show Interest From the Heart. Showing interest in people is, not a technique to be mastered, but a quality of the heart. The degree of our interest in others is evident in many ways. It shows in how we listen and in what we say. It is manifested by the kindness and consideration we extend to others. Even when we do not say or do anything, it is revealed by our attitude and our facial expressions. If we truly care about others, they will without fail be able to tell.
The most important reason for showing sincere interest in others is that by doing so, we imitate the love and mercy of our heavenly Father. This helps to draw our listeners to Jehovah and to the message he has given us to spread. Hence, as you share the good news, strive to keep an eye “not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—Phil. 2:4.