The Summer Reading Project: Listen

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through B.L.E.S.S. by Dave and Jon Ferguson, I’ll post my thoughts here. They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2021. The schedule is online.

There are a bunch of cool graphics like this at

This week is the L in B.L.E.S.S. — Listen.

The chapter was good but unexceptional. Listen before you speak. Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. God gave you two ears and one mouth — use them accordingly.

These are principles that we’ve all heard before. As in so many areas, the challenge is less in the knowing than in the doing. If we all lived according to what we knew, we’d be a lot buffer. Almost everyone knows how to live healthier than they are — they don’t need more information, they just need to convert their knowledge into action.

Likewise with listening — just do it. One way to force yourself to listen is to ask questions.

At Stanford the most common questions people ask are “What are you studying?” and “Where are you from?”

I like the suggestions that the brothers Ferguson offer for additional questions:

  • History: “Tell me your story.” “What’s different between here and where you grew up?”
  • Heart: “What’s your favorite _____?” (food, team, place to travel)
  • Habits: “What are you into?” “What do you like to do with your free time?” “When you don’t have classes anymore what do you look forward to doing?”
  • Hurts: “How are you doing with _____?”

So go forth with questions, and listen to the answers!

The Summer Reading Project: Begin With Prayer

Chapter 3 of B.L.E.S.S. is the B — Begin with prayer.

I liked this chapter a lot — it was full of practical tips and inspiring stories.

One nugget I especially appreciated:

I reached into my computer bag and pulled out my journal and Bible. After spending some time reading and reflecting, my routine was to first write the word “B.L.E.S.S.” and then list the people for whom I would simply pray for a few minutes.

Next, I drew a straight black line across the bottom of the page in my journal, paused, and then listened for God. This is how I’ve learned to pray every day. Drawing that horizontal line became a ritual that transitioned my mind from talking to God to listening to Him. Often when I listen, nothing comes to mind–but if something or someone does I write it down.

Dave Ferguson, B.L.E.S.S. pages 35–36

I love how simple that habit is — just draw a line and listen!

a simple neighbor map — draw a tic-tac-toe grid, put yourself in the center, and write your neighbors’ names in the squares around you

Towards the end of the chapter, there is a simple tool called the “Who Is My Neighbor?” map. Just draw a tic-tac-toe grid and put yourself at the center. Now identify the eight people who are closest to you in some context and write their names in the other squares (you could do it for your dorm, for your labmates, or for your teammates). Voila — you now have a prayer list.

So far I’m loving this book. It is Biblical, practical, and easy to read!

Bonus: the chapter also contained this banger quote:

Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.

Hudson Taylor

👀 — that’s good!

Kicking Off the 2021 Summer Reading Project: B.L.E.S.S.

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through B.L.E.S.S. by Dave and Jon Ferguson, I’ll post my thoughts here. They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2021. The schedule is online.

Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson are brothers who planted Community Christian Church in Chicago. It’s grown large (the church was drawing 6,500 attendees before COVID) and they’ve written several books to help their congregants serve Christ more effectively. This summer we’re going to take a look at their book about evangelism: B.L.E.S.S.

B.L.E.S.S. is an acrostic built out of the five practices the book advocates: Begin with prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, and Story.

This week, we’re looking at chapters 1 and 2. Dave describes his struggles trying to share his faith (although the book is co-authored, they wrote it in Dave’s voice to make it less confusing), shares encouraging data about how open people are to talking about God, and at the beginning of chapter two drops this gem about an email he received:

…Two teams of missionaries…went to Thailand. While both teams went with similar goals, they carried two distinctly different strategies.

The “Converters” group went with the sole intention of converting people and evangelizing. Their goal was to “save souls.”

The “Blessers” group explained their intention like this: “We are here to bless whoever God sends our way.”

The study followed both the “Converters” and the “Blessers” for two years. At the end of that time, the researchers discovered two key findings:

First, the presence of the “Blessers” in the community resulted in tremendous amounts of “social good.” It appeared, according to the study, that this group contributed to the betterment of society, community life, and the creation of social capital. The presence of the “Converters,” however, seemed to make no difference.

The second discovery–and this was very surprising–was that the “Blessers” saw forty-eight conversions while the “Converters” saw only one! The “Blessers” group saw almost fifty times as many conversions through being a blessing than the group that was only trying to convert the people around it.

B.L.E.S.S pages 17–18

I’ve never seen that study and can’t comment on its rigor, but it intuitively makes sense to me. A similar line of thinking led to the way I close our on-campus services each week. If you’re part of Chi Alpha, you’ve heard me say the following dozens of times:

“As you leave, remember you’re not just leaving a meeting. You’re leaving as part of a community, if you want to be. We’re Chi Alpha, a community of students earnestly following Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Our name reminds us of our mission: Chi Alpha stands for Christ’s Ambassadors because we represent a King and we do what ambassadors do. We make friends on our sovereign’s behalf and we advance His interests wherever we find ourselves. And since our King is in the blessing business, that makes it our business too. Go forth tonight with an eager expectation to see how God will use you to bless others. Go forth with faith in your heart, hope upon your countenance, and love upon your lips.”

Those aren’t just idle words I say, they express some of my deepest convictions about ministry. And so my hope is that reading this book together will help us become even more effective at being agents of blessing.

Blessing people is always good. When we bless people at a minimum they receive our love, and at maximum they receive both our love and God’s. In other words, the worst case scenario is that they are blessed, and the best case scenario is that they are both blessed and also transformed by God’s grace. There’s no bad outcome — it’s either good or it’s great!