The Fine Art of Listening

Few of us can lay great claim to outstanding originality, and it behooves many of us to kindle our fires from another's flame.

By WILLARD A. DESSAIN, President of "the South Dakota Conference

Among the many adjuncts to good preaching none is perhaps more carelessly treated and more grossly neglected than that of listening to what others have to say. However, few of us can lay great claim to outstanding originality, and it behooves many of us to kindle our fires from another's flame.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the sage of Concord, said, "Every man I meet is in some way my superior." In no field is this more true than in the ministry of the gospel and gospel preaching. To listen is to grow. To grow is expansion. And expansion means power. Dwight L. Moody, when visiting Charles Spurgeon, in London, used to climb to the second gallery of Spurgeon's great Metropolitan Tabernacle to hear him preach. He would lean his elbows over the railing where he sat, lis­tening spellbound, with tears streaming down his cheeks. Daily, for weeks on end, he did this. Then on returning to America he would launch out upon one of his great soul-saving campaigns with a fire, fervor, and freshness that is still an astonishment in the annals of evangelism. He had mastered the fine art of listening, and as a result his tremendous powers were greatly augmented.

There is not a man who preaches, no matter how poorly, who cannot in some way teach us, if we will only faithfully follow his presentation and line of thought. There are those in the gospel ministry who feel that to listen to an inferior is a waste of time, that only by listening to a superior can one's technique, information, and ability be improved and enriched. But this is a sad and lamentable mistake, which, if continued in, will most certainly result in a stifling of capabilities. The late Dr. David Paulson, so celebrated for his versatility and brilliance as a public speaker, said, "I gather berries from all bushes."- Happy the preacher who enriches his gift by avidly listening to others —superior, mediocre, or lowly!

Charles Wesley spent hours listening to common men preach, in this way gaining many fine arrows for his spiritual quiver. Daniel Webster used to slip into a weather-beaten little country church near his summer home and listen to the plain, homespun preacher. When asked why he spent his valuable time in so simple and primitive a church, he replied, "I am replenishing my fires." Here was a great man who never wearied of learning from humble teachers.

Great ideas often spring from humble sources. One of our denominational preachers who preached with unusual success was asked about the origin of his most striking and singular sermon. He re­plied that he had received the central idea for it while sitting in an old farmer's Sabbath school class.

As preachers we absorb through three agencies, generally speaking. They are seeing, reading, and hearing. And the last is as important as the other two. Happy the man who makes full use of the fine art of listening in his ministry and preaching.

Let us listen to others, not merely by chance or as an unavoidable circumstance, but by deliberate plan, for profit and enlargement!

Advertisement - Ministry in Motion 300x250

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

By WILLARD A. DESSAIN, President of "the South Dakota Conference

August 1945

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

The Pastor's Relationship Toward Evangelism

It is true that the evangelist may do valuable pastopal work and the pastor may do successful evangelistic work, but the evangelist must not be judged by his pastoral ability or the pastor by his evangelistic achievements.

Combating the Theory of Evolution

From the realm of research.

To Laborers Entering a New Field

Vital Testimony Counsels.

Enhancing Our Favorite Hymns

Our monthly music column.

New Evidence for Our Sermons

Bringing forth both things new and old.

Ministers, Consider Your Manners!

This is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject of manners for ministers, but it is rather a series of suggestions for consider­ation.

Editorial Keynotes

Do Hasty Baptisms Make for Strength?

Memorial Services for Our Boys

Tributes to our servicemen who will not return home.

The Church's Supreme Task

The task before us is the salvation of our fel­low men. What are we doing to save them?

Give Your Young Associate a Chance

It is often the privilege of a minister to have associated with him in his work a ministerial intern just out of school.

A Minister Who Joined the Dorcas

Usually the Dorcas Society is made up of women. When a man joins, it is news.

What About the Prayer Meeting?

The prayer meeting attendance is a spiritual barometer of the church.

Role of Nutrition in Times of Crises

The light the war has shed on this question.

The Religio-Medical Liaison—No. 2

Did not Jesus effect many cures, and that without drugs?

Baptist Bodies of Today

Our continued look at various denominations.

Self-Reliance in the Indigenous Church

How to development self-supporting churches in the mission field.

Pointer's to Progress

Monthly pulpit pointer's from the Ministry staff.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated


Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - Digital Discipleship (160x600)