Can You Hear Me Now?

By Keith N. Croom, Ed.D

Listening is a colossal part of being an effective Chaplain. It is also crucial when you are providing pastoral care. It is vital to grasp how the Old and New Testaments dovetail on this wonderful gift we receive and give to others. I hope my thoughts create a biblical picture of what we can offer to others as Chaplains and receive from others if we are willing to humble ourselves.

“You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” James 1:19 (NASB).

When I read anything regarding listening and hearing, James 1:19 is often quoted. It really is a wonderful Scripture and certainly demands our attention and obedience. The book is about living out what you have learned in the presence of God, and I have always wondered why James connected listening (hearing), speaking and anger. One simple thought is listening cannot really be accomplished if your anger and mouth are not in check. When we are angry and trying to speak, it does not allow us to be in the proper mindset to really listen. Many times, we are not listening but ‘speaking’ loudly in our minds and planning for our next statement to be the one that silences the individual in front of us. James knew from experience the only way to truly listen is to control your anger and stop speaking within your mind and out of your mouth.

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil” Ecclesiastes 5:1 (NASB).

This verse describes how we should enter the presence of God and prepare to worship Him. The word “listen” in this Scripture means to surrender power to the one you are listening to. It means to perceive, to be concerned, to be expectant and to focus on what will happen next. It means you are living in that moment, and nothing else matters. The author of this verse is explaining to the reader how to act in the presence of Almighty God while you worship. Listening to God and hearing Him is part of worshipping Him. The word “hear” in James 1:19 means the same but excludes listening as an act of worship, which is only to be offered to God and no other. It does, however, invoke similar respect in hearing what is being said with an attitude of living out our faith, treating others as more important than we are and acknowledging the person in our presence is loved and created by God. James 1:19 uses the Greek word “hear” in the context of living out your faith in practical ways with the same mindset and respect you have when you are in the presence of God, using “listening” to the Father as an act of worship.

James 1:19 encourages us to listen to others without anger and without preparing to speak. Ecclesiastes 5:1 enables, empowers, and prepares us to listen because we have been in the presence of God and worshipped and heard from Him. Both Scriptures are connected with loving God and pursuing obedience to Him in our everyday lives. It is about listening to others as you listen to the Father. It is about respect, honor and care. Ultimately, it is about loving God and people more than you love yourself. Listening is an act of humility.

Listening to someone and hearing them is a gift to them. The privilege of being the listener is you are imitating God and being Christ-like. I believe every individual needs three things from Chaplains – Time, Encouragement, and Availability (T.E.A.). Listening to and hearing your flock is an excellent way to carry out this philosophy of ministry! I commit to be a better listener as I worship and as I listen to others. Will you join me?

Published April 7, 2024

Keith N. Croom, Ed.D

Keith serves as NAMB’s chaplaincy pastoral care manager providing pastoral care oversight to Southern Baptist chaplains and their families. His wife, Kelly, and a team of chaplain ambassadors support him in this effort.