As my daughters get older, I’m increasingly aware of my decreasing voice in their lives. Other influences (friends, media, etc.) are becoming more prominent. My dad jokes aren’t funny anymore. (Well, they’re still funny, they just biologically won’t be able to laugh at them again for probably another 15-20 years).
Yes, I realize I still have influence in their lives. But as they get older, I’m growing more sensitive to anything that might decrease my ability to witness God’s grace to them.
This same concern carries over to the people we serve at ATLAS. In our ATLAS Mentor Workshops, we discuss qualities of effective mentors. To be an effective mentor is to be able to speak influentially into someone’s life in a loving, unique way. But we also caution potential mentors about things that can wreck their witness.
From my own experience, the following six things are some of the most effective witness wreckers. These six will ensure nobody listens to anything you have to say about Jesus, the gospel, or matters of faith. I’ve done all of these myself (I’m unfortunately good at #1, #2, and #3), so I’ve seen firsthand just how effective these can be.
Follow my instructions below and your witness will be thoroughly wrecked. (Note of caution: sarcasm is one of my love languages).
#1 – Be Impatient
Rule #1 in making sure nobody listens to you: do not take the time to listen to them.
Patiently listening to other people will only encourage conversation. Conversations only increase the possibility of people listening to you. So whatever you do, do not listen. Jump to conclusions first. Do not get to know them. Do not try to understand their story. Don’t ask questions for the sake of understanding.
If you get this one right, all the other methods I mention below will be more effective. So be impatient with people and don’t listen to them if you want to make sure they don’t listen to you.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19)
#2 – Complain
If you’re looking for the fastest way to get people to stop listening to you, complaining is the way to go.
People tire quickly of complaining. And there’s no shortage of material to use. Complain about the weather. Complain about your family. Complain about how no one else in this world knows how to drive except for you. Complain about your pastor. Complain about other pastors. Complain about the government. Complain about sports. Complain about the lack of sports right now. Complain about people who complain (I might be a bit guilty of this with this post).
Just complain. People will tune you out in no time.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:14)
#3 – Control
Trying to be someone’s puppet master will also get ears to close quickly.
Ignore the fact that you’re supposed to help them follow and obey Jesus and just make sure they obey you instead. Buy into the lie that their life is where you find your identity. Believe that what they do reflects entirely on you. Control their actions and decisions as much as possible to portray yourself in the best possible light. Everyone will think highly of you, except the person you’re controlling, of course. They’ll stop listening to you.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
#4 – Hypocrisy
Another solid approach to ensure people won’t listen to you is hypocrisy.
Expect of others what you refuse to do yourself. Heap up burdens and expectations on other people while not following them yourself. And by no means help anyone with struggles in their lives. Instead, criticize them from a safe distance.
If you need guidance in perfecting this, look to the Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers in the gospels. These guys were so good at this that Jesus said, “you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:46)
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)
#5 – Judge
Closely related to hypocrisy is judging.
This often-used approach is the favorite of those who try to justify themselves before God by ripping other people down (again, see the Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers in the gospels). They think if they can make everyone else look bad, then they will somehow have a better seat at the Lord’s table.
The key to this approach is to not care at all about people’s hearts. Instead, only focus on their outward actions. Don’t bother understanding the underlying lie, wrong belief, deep pain, sin they committed, or sin committed against them that they’ve succumbed to in their hearts and that’s fueling their outward action.
Don’t offer them the hope of the gospel. If you offer them hope, there’s a chance they might want to hear more. So just repeatedly tell them they’re doing the wrong things and the problem of them listening to you will go away.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6:37)
#6 – Don’t Witness At All
But the only way to be 100% sure nobody listens to you talk about the gospel is to never actually talk about the gospel. Do whatever you can to talk about anything other than Christ crucified. This is the only sure way.
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)
Granted, people still may not listen to you talk about the gospel even if you avoid all six of these. As 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
But if you want to make sure people won’t listen to you, by all means pursue these six things.