What makes a man a great preacher? Not sure if “being a great listener” would be among the top answers. Yet, that’s what Burk Parsons persuasively argues in The Wisdom of Listening:

In fact, the greatest speakers, the greatest teachers, and the greatest preachers are the greatest listeners. Often, it is assumed that in order to be a great preacher one must merely be a great speaker. However, it must be understood (especially by men who are training for future pastoral ministry) that the greatest preachers, the most consistent, steadfast, staunchly biblical preachers are the greatest listeners.

Burk says that great listening produces great preachers because “they have earned the right to be heard.” Years of listening and learning have produced wisdom that’s worth hearing. Burk’s focus here is on the head: great listeners are great learners.

I’m going to “piggy-back” on Burk’s insight and also add a focus on the heart: great listeners are great lovers. Let me quickly explain what I mean. Passionate love produces passionate listening. One of the best ways to communicate “I love you,” is to communicate, “I’m listening to you.”

When people feel listened to, they feel loved, and respond with loving listening. When people sense that their pastor is carefully and prayerfully listening to them in their homes on a Thursday evening, it’s so much easier to listen to him on a Sunday morning. His great listening in their homes produces great listening in the church. In fact, his great listening transforms him (in their hearts and minds) into a great preacher.

I’d be worried if I never heard at the end of pastoral visits, “O pastor, I’m sorry, I’ve done all the talking tonight.”

Read Burk’s fine article here.