The Common Good

Phone Foul: The Importance of Being a Good Listener

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I decided to make an appointment with the vet about an enflamed wound on our dog’s leg. She went out to make the call and then left to pick up the children from school.

While she was out our phone rang. When I lifted it, it was a call back. Panicking I realised that this was Janice’s call to the vet and quickly decided what to say.

The receptionist answered and I told her that my wife was trying to make an appointment for our dog but had gone out and she would have to phone back later.

When my wife came in I told her about the call but she found it puzzling as she had gotten through to the vet. Then she realised that the ring back was from... the dentist!


We laughed! When Janice rang back the dentist, the receptionist laughed!

Yet, there is a profound lesson in the succession of events that left me red faced. If I hadn’t been so concerned about what I was going to say to the vet when the receptionist answered the phone, I would have heard the receptionist tell me loud and clear that I was through to a dental practice.

I hadn’t listened. In not listening I got everything I said wrong.

In the business I am in, of ministry and pastoral care, listening is such an important thing. I can prepare all the fancy theology and exegesis imaginable but if I don’t listen I might be getting it all wrong and embarrassing myself in the process.

Speaking to the students in Union Theological College in Belfast this morning, I was sharing the importance of incarnation. Jesus modelled that the most effective way to share the good news or be light in the dark or bringing God’s Kingdom is by moving into neighbourhoods, dwelling among people -- LISTENING.

As we attempt to bring God’s good news we need to listen for what the questions are, where people are, what the concerns of the neighbourhood are and then apply the Word of God to what we hear.

Presence and listening the first two important steps to God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Steve Stockman the minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and blogs regularly on the intersection of faith and culture at Soul Surmise, where this reflection first appeared.

Image: Jakub Krechowicz/Shutterstock

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories


Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)