Getting Through to Someone Who Isn’t Listening


At some point, a preacher will preach a sermon that does not go well. Or at work, a conversation will not go the way you’d hoped. The expectation you had going into the conversation of the desired outcome is not met. Maybe it is at home where you and your spouse, or you and your child seem to be ships passing in the night.

In Matthew 13 is a short parable of Jesus that I’ve pastors refer to when they preach a sermon that is not met with the same enthusiasm they expected or hoped or people have used when sharing the gospel and it went nowhere.

It says:

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, somea hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Notice where pastors get themselves off the hook or where we as Christians get off the hook in sharing the gospel or a conversation: Some people just aren’t open and won’t listen. What was the farmer supposed to do? The soil wasn’t ready. While that clearly happens and there is some truth there.

Notice what the farmer did. He spread the seed out, he did what he was supposed to do. It was soil, he planted seed in soil the way you are supposed to plant soil.

Many pastors and Christians who share the gospel are content to let themselves off the hook by not doing it in a way that resonates with people who don’t know Jesus.

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when communicating to someone, whether it is at a job, about an issue that needs to be resolved or about the gospel:

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. How are they feeling? What are their roadblocks to hearing what you have to say? Many pastors don’t remember that most of the people they preach to don’t agree with them. Don’t assume you have agreement on the foundational pieces of your conversation or sermon. 
  2. Have a goal in mind. What is a win? If the conversation or sermon ends, how will you know if it is a success? Is that goal realistic? Everything should be moving in that direction. When I preach, I have a big idea. The big idea is the one idea I want everyone to leave knowing. If people can’t say it and remember it, it wasn’t a success.
  3. Remember you don’t control their response. This is true, but easy to forget. You don’t change anybody’s mind. You don’t force anybody into the kingdom of God. You don’t make someone kill an idol in their heart, the Holy Spirit does. You don’t make your child or spouse who God wants them to be, He does. Remember your role in the process.
  4. Be prepared. The farmer was prepared. If you preach, you should be obviously prepared for your sermon. Do your homework. You as a pastor pay the price for your sermon, not your church. The farmer did his job, he planted the seed and let them grow. He didn’t force them, he planted.