How Hospitable Listening Can Lead Us Into the Future

We live in an age of noise. It’s easier than ever for anyone and everyone to share their thoughts, opinions, and story. While much good can come with this, we also know that when everyone is speaking loudly, it’s hard for anyone to be heard. It’s even harder to get quiet enough to listen. We’ve lost the skill of quiet discourse.

With so much noise and distraction, it’s harder to listen to God and each other. Often the path forward requires us to do the hard things. We believe listening is this path; it’s the key to unlocking a better future for ourselves and our children.

First Things First: Listening to God

We must first listen to God. We must be willing to quiet ourselves and our surroundings enough to hear the still, small voice of the Spirit. Despite all the things competing for our attention, to hear the gentle whisper of God, like Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13), we must be silent.

Jesus modeled this for us when he drew away to quiet places to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). We cannot expect to do the work of God in this world, to imagine a new future, to bring the kingdom of heaven on earth if we do not start by listening to God’s voice.

This requires not only time alone in prayer, but realizing that God’s Spirit is always at work, always accessible to us, and always speaking—even in the midst of our busy daily lives. The Spirit guides us into all wisdom, prompts us forward, and fills us with conviction and purpose.

Just as the Spirit guided Moses through the wilderness, the Spirit desires to guide you through whatever wilderness you are facing as well. When we listen to God, He leads and empowers us.

Listening to the Spirit is the first step forward into a new frontier.

Next Up: Listening to Those Around Us

The next step is similar—learning to listen to the people around us. This is how we love our brothers and sisters.

Perhaps we raise our voices because we so rarely feel genuinely heard. We are each starving for someone to listen, really listen, to us. And we forget that we must become what we need.

Decades ago, Bonhoeffer wrote: “Secular education today is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously, and upon this insight, it has constructed its own soul therapy, which has attracted great numbers of people, including Christians. But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by him who is himself the great listener and whose work they should share.”

Being heard is healing, and we can join in offering it. When we listen to each other we have an opportunity to offer both love and healing to a world desperately in need of it.

But this listening must be the right kind of listening.

There is a listening that hears only with the intent to reply, to refute, to defend. This is not the kind of listening that shows love or brings healing. This kind of listening is still postured toward the self, rather than the other.

True listening sets aside the self. It is welcoming to the other, it is hospitable. The door is open, the welcome mat is out, all the lights are on. The table is set with warm food, and the friend is invited in.

Henry Nouwen speaks of this sort of listening when he says:

“To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept. Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.”

Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality.

There has always been a hospitality element to Alpha. Creating a safe space where people feel welcome is a core value. This is part of why we encourage Alpha groups to share meals together, but true hospitality goes far beyond just a meal. It really starts and ends with listening.

As Nouwen said, “Those who are listened to start to feel accepted.” David W. Augsburger put this another way when he said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”

When we empty ourselves enough to listen carefully, with no agenda, we offer a gift to the person we are listening to—we offer love.

And isn’t this how Jesus said the world would know us? By our love (John 13:35).

Perhaps this is exactly why James implores the early church to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Because it’s in listening that we offer love.

As we move into yet another decade of this new century, let us be people who listen. As we come out of the trauma of the past year, let us be people who listen. As we rebuild, repair, and reimagine a new future, let us be people who listen.

Alpha can equip your church, small group, or your friendship circle to create a space for honest conversations and listening without judgment. Learn more about how to run an Alpha, attend a Run Alpha training, and then register your course to access rich (free) resources to support your weekly sessions.


This track is full of amazing main-stage speakers who will showcase the power of prayer in every generation, equip you to live a naturally supernatural life and train you to heal as Jesus did. Senior pastors, church leaders, non-profit leaders, this track is you!

Workshops in this Track

Learnings from Asbury on the Power of Prayer

Speaker: Angela Chadwick, Global Director of Prayer, Alpha USA

Alpha’s Global Director of Prayer will interview some of the spiritual leaders involved in the Asbury revival where a chapel worship service caught the attention of our country. You’ll hear stories of how the students were deeply moved by God through the simplest forms of worship and how the leaders made sure the only celebrity on stage was Jesus. You’ll also be amazed by the powerful breakthroughs in young people’s lives through the gentlest of prayers.

Additionally, we will explore how the resurgence of faith in one small American town is relevant to every person in the Church and how it shapes how we share the good news in a good way with this generation.

How to Facilitate Eternal Connections with Jesus

Speaker: Danielle Strickland, Spiritual Leader, Justice Advocate, Communicator, Peacemaker

Encounter is God’s favorite way to spiritual revelation. Why do we emphasize information-formation as our primary means of discipleship? What if we put more time, energy, and effort into facilitating more encounters? Be prepared to discuss together how cultivating curiosity becomes a means to do just that. We will talk techniques, experiences, and new ideas.

Everyday Miracles

Speakers: Dr. Chloe Swart, Associate National Director for Alpha UK, and Dr. Russo Swart, New Wine Cymru Prophetic and Healing Team

This workshop will look at how to heal the sick as a part of our everyday missional lives. Following Chloe’s PhD studying healing miracles in Wales, Chloe found that Christians in Wales were praying for their friends, family, and colleagues, in the gym, in the supermarket, at work; wherever they found themselves, as well as in church services, and Alpha courses. Healing is a missional tool that points toward Jesus. Unpack the theology of healing, while also hearing very practical teaching and demonstration of how to heal the sick in an everyday way.

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