Cover Image: The Listening Road

The Listening Road

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Member Reviews

I loved the unique perspective of this book. I’m a pastor’s wife, so I might be a little biased, though! This is what ministry is supposed to looks like. It’s all about sharing stories and life with people and using relationships to share the Gospel. Neil was able to make connections through this journey that wouldn’t have been easily made through working his normal day job.

This book contains so much wisdom from all of his encounters through such a unique experience. You can hear his passion and heart for people through his writing, which is what makes this book such an enjoyable read.
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The Listening Road is one pastor's quest to listen and talk to people in all walks of life about the important things in life.  Neil Tomba goes on a cross country bike ride to listen and learn from people that he encounters.  This is a wonderful book about how people can come together and learn from each other, no matter the differences.
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Neil Tomba is a pastor who finally realized a dream he’d had for 18 years: to bike across America having conversations about faith and Jesus with whomever was interested. His dream felt impossible with so my difficult logistics to work out, but friends and family caught the vision and helped plan and organize the details.

The purpose of the trip was to hold meaningful conversation, to value other people’s views on faith, to heal the deep divides America is experiencing with differences of opinion in the social, political and religious spheres, and to share the hope found in Jesus. 

The 33 day journey was grueling at times, with downpours, hail, flat tires, locked gears, saddle sores, hunger and thirst, extreme fatigue, minor injuries, etc., but it was all worth it to love others and talk with whomever God brought across his path. The book documents who he met and the conversations they had, as well as the lessons Pastor Tomba learned as he went. He shares the thoughts he had and the prayers he offered up to God for guidance and God’s answers to those prayers. 

In one particularly poignant conversation pastor Tomba had with a man named Bill, Bill said, “Somehow we have failed to teach the young people in this country that America was never designed as a place to win the argument. It was designed as a place for the argument to go on perpetually - and hopefully in a civil way, by developing consensus but not unanimity. The minute somebody wins the argument, you’ve established a tyranny.. These days, unfortunately, everybody’s lined up on opposite sides. They’re only committed to victory for their ideology, to defeating the other side. But that’s the antithesis of what we need in America today… America is the place to hold a debate. It’s not the place to win it.“

Some of the things Pastor Tomba realized:
1. More people are open to conversation than he thought.
2. Conversations are better when the focus isn’t on getting a result. It’s better to listen first and if there is an opportunity, to plant a seed and release others to God, trusting God’s work and timing in their lives.
3. We need others to support us when things get difficult. 
4. We accomplish more when we work together. 
5. Much division in this world is tied to fears.
6. It’s more important to listen than to speak, but it’s also important to ask open ended questions without expectations.
7. Being in community with people is hard, but also worth it. 

I give this book a 4 star rating. It was a fun, worthwhile read. I appreciate the purpose behind Pastor Tomba’s trip, the bridges he wanted to build and the stereotypes he wanted to take down. He accomplished that and we get to observe and learn from his experiences as well. Hopefully we can all make similar efforts to listen to each other and help be the change this country needs.

I received an arc copy from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This really was an insightful and encouraging read!

We do indeed live in a contentious world, where civil discourse and conversations seem increasingly hard to find. I loved Tomba's goal to challenge that status quo via a cross-country bike ride.

Much of the journey, and the book, is admirable. I love bike riding on vacation, and can't say I'd pursue a trek like this, so got to live vicariously through Tomba--happily so, especially with all the physical challenges I only had to read about!

I also appreciated how he showed restraint in conversations, trying to practice what he preached. I will say, two conversations in particular (and his post-convo reactions, as shared in the book anyway) were a little disappointing. I wanted more on _why_ he reacted that way, and his in-book reticence and lack of sharing his own beliefs--while in line with the very motives and conversations he had--just left me feeling a underwhelmed. Further, near the end of the book I found myself about as ready as he was to hit the finish line!

Still, a worthy read and excellent example of simply having conversations with people, many of whose opinions and faiths differed widely from his own. I particularly appreciated how the read illustrated 1 Corinthians 3:6-8: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor." (NIV)

4/5 stars.

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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Is it possible to talk to people about faith, life, and deep or sensitive topics? In The Listening Road, a group of people, including pastor Neil Tomba, bicycle for 33 days across the U.S. to engage in intentional conversations with hundreds of people. 
With honesty, Neil shares a journal of almost every day on the road. He discusses the ups and downs of the trip, including fear that he wouldn’t meet any people on a given day, wanting to quit multiple times, and intense pain and serious injuries. I appreciated that he didn’t sugarcoat his doubts and concerns or the relationship challenges but was honest about the lows of the physical, social and faith journey.
The book also offers snippets from dozens of conversations as the team made connections with people of all ages and faiths. As the intro says, this book is indeed for people everywhere who long for deeper conversations. The idea is a practical way we can change our posture toward others and listen from a place of service rather than preaching. The team strove to listen to stories in a way that made people feel respected, heard and valued. Not all the conversations were “deep,” but all conversations can be meaningful to participants. 
I appreciated that this book included biblical stories but wasn’t preachy. It inspired me to keep telling my story but mostly to listen to the stories of others!
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The  Listening Road by Neil Tomba is a beautiful, inspiring story of the journey of Pastor Neil biking through USA in 33 days trying to connect with people on the road and have deep conversations. I really enjoy every story and conversation Neil shares in the book. I think he talks and connects with people with so much love and wisdom, without judging,  looking down or criticizing the choices people made in their life, he truly show genuine interest in people lifes even during a very short and casual conversation. For me it's amazing how people can just open up to him.
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I just finished this unusual memoir….

The Listening Road is about a special project that was a dream of one man, the author Neil Tomba.

He wanted to ride a bicycle across the country (USA) and talk to people about life and faith.

This simple idea grew into an ocean to ocean cross-country ride with two vans of support people, and 3 people who rode all the way — Neil, Wes, and Caroline.

Neil tells the story about their experiences riding through wind and rain and hot sun, and about all the people they met, and the interesting conversations they had. They talked with a wide array of people, and almost everyone had something interesting to say!

This was an interesting read. I really liked Neil’s attitude of listening to what people had to say, and not arguing with them. It’s a great way to make friends!

Hey, take a look at this book! –->The Listening Road

It’s an enjoyable summer read!
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In the early pages of Neil Tomba's "The Listening Road: One Man's Ride Across America to Start Conversations About God," you'd be hard-pressed to realize that Tomba is the senior pastor of Dallas's Northwest Bible Church, a congregation established in 1951 that Tomba has served as senior pastor for the past 20+ years.

It's not that Tomba doesn't come off as pastoral. He certainly does. It's that Tomba's writing possesses a normalcy and humility that is rare among evangelical writers and certainly evangelical pastors.

Of course, there's no hiding the pastoral roots that serve as the foundation of "The Listening Road," a chronicle of Tomba's 33 days wheeling across America with a team of friends and family having what he often refers to as "deeper" conversations that are, essentially, conversations about God.

"The Listening Road" isn't about Tomba as a fundraiser. There wasn't a fundraising aspect to this trip. It's not about Tomba's role as an activist - the only true "cause" here is Jesus and the only real reason for this trip was to have deeper conversations and even deeper listening.

To his credit, and admittedly to my surprise, Tomba never really defines his theology in "The Listening Road" despite having conversation after conversation about God. At times, Tomba openly confesses having had to bite his tongue as people would say things that would trigger his own defense of God, of Jesus, of Scripture, and of his life of faith. It was only after finally looking up Northwest Bible Church that I began to get a glimpse at Tomba's own faith journey and evangelical beliefs. A graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Tomba leads a rather large church (this admittedly also surprised me) with a wide variety of ministries and a strong commitment to community.

This trip started partly out of Tomba's own 18-year vision for making such a trip and was truly inspired by Tomba's increasing awareness that people were having trouble with conversations about God when outside the church walls AND because of the growing disconnection and conflicts that seemingly far too often define our relationships with those whom we disagree.

"The Listening Road" is about those conversations that Tomba and his team had while they were on the road. They often biked 100+ miles daily while never passing up the opportunity to have conversations, some expected and some definitely not, along the way.

While one might think that an evangelical pastor would inevitably turn preachy along the way, Tomba surrendered to listening even during those times when he found himself disagreeing and even when the pastor in him wanted to "prove" a point.

In other words, Tomba is for the most part a breath of fresh air. "The Listening Road" gives us the richly human Tomba, a man who has bad days, makes bad decisions, occasionally causes the tension he's trying to teach against, gets hurt, gets hurt again, sometimes comes off as more judgmental than I think he likely realizes, but surrenders himself to this wonderful concept of listening to people along the road whether they're like him or a polar opposite.

He has heart-wrenching experiences.

He has maddening experiences.

He has funny experiences.

He has humbling experiences.

He projects a pastoral presence and people respond to his quiet presence by revealing themselves to him (and others in his team) along the way.

I never less than enjoyed "The Listening Road," though admittedly at nearly 300 pages in length the stories at times became a bit redundant as did Tomba's response to his experiences. There is very little structural variation in "The Listening Road" - this is, quite simply, a vivid and engaging accounting of Tomba's 33 days on the road including the road experiences and those treasured conversations.

There are moments in "The Listening Road" when it feels like Tomba's holding back. This is, perhaps, a direct result of the fact that on some level by choosing to primarily listen Tomba really did hold back parts of himself in these conversations. Would these conversations have worked as well with another approach? Probably not. But, there's still that sense at times of wishing I could more emotionally connect with Tomba's experience.

Tomba is also quick to give space to those with whom he traveled. We become fond of people like Caroline and Wes and Tomba's own wife Vela among others. While I admittedly wanted a little bit more about their own experiences with conversations, Tomba is remarkably quick to share their experiences on the road and you can get a sense that this entire road trip completely changed their relationships in profound ways.

As a wheelchair user who has done my own long-distance events up to and including a 41-day, 1086 mile trip traveling alone in my wheelchair, I found myself resonating with many of Tomba's experiences throughout the book including his rather profound observations as the trip wound down. I've often said that when you travel at 2-3 miles per hour (my speed in a wheelchair), you say "hi!" to everyone and there's no one you can get away from. In many ways, this is Tomba's experience - being on the road in such a profound ways seemingly caused him to experience God in a most vulnerable way and the same ended up being true for his teammates and all they encountered.

"The Longest Road" won't likely resonate with everyone and certainly not with those uncomfortable with Tomba's central mission of very outwardly having conversations about God, discussing religion, talking about religion, and sometimes (frequently) shutting up and listening.

If I lived in Dallas, I have a feeling I'd embrace Tomba as a senior pastor and this community of faith that seemed to support this wild mission. However, for those who've ever engaged in late night conversations about deeper matters or who've ever had just the perfect experiencing of talking or listening, "The Listening Road" is practically a must-read. As someone who spent 30 years of my life traveling by wheelchair (just ending my event last year), I was engaged, challenged, inspired, and even entertained. I wanted to get to know Tomba, his team, and even some of the folks he met along the way.

In the end, at least for me, the lesson was that the perfect way to truly start deeper conversations about life and God is to actually simply listen.
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At first, I would like to thank @Netgalley and Nelsonbooks for allowing me to review this book. Keep in mind that my review, however, is my true opinion on this book.

“The listening road” is a book about conversations about all of the questions in life. How do you have conversations with other people that can be hard, even with people you do not know? In the book, Neil Tomba addresses this. He took a trip across the United States of America on his bicycle. It took thirty-three days, and it was a full month of inspiring conversations, which you can now read about in this book. This is by the way a true story!

On the trip, and in this book, Neil Tomba talks to a lot of different people with different backgrounds and very different stories. They all have a different approach to life, and it is interesting to hear how they all find a way to have a good life. 

The authenticity in this book is on point, and you can tell that these are true stories! The book is easy to read, the language is approachable, and the topic is for all of us to understand and learn from. 

This book might inspire you to have some difficult conversations with those you know, or like Neil Tomba, with strangers. 

The key to a good, but difficult conversation is all about curiosity, kindness, and respect!
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Neil is my pastor at Northwest Bible in Dallas, Texas, and as with any book where I know the author or have high expectations, I went in nervous about what I would find in these pages. But I had no cause for concern. This book is a vulnerable look at the journey Neil took in cycling 3000 miles across the country in 33 days. The ride was not easy, but he set out with a mission of having conversations about Jesus with people from all walks of life, and the way he handled himself in those conversations is something we thankfully get to learn from in this book.

From the pulpit Neil cast a vision that, "by 2026, we will be having thousands of surprisingly easy-to-start conversations about Jesus all over our city because we are convinced, where God has us is where Jesus is." He went on this trip to show us what those conversations can look like. And it boils down to listening to people and meeting them where they are. God showed up in big ways for Neil on this trip and I loved reading about how God provided physically, mentally, and spiritually along the way.

This book has applicable knowledge, takes you along the cross country ride, and surprisingly will make you very hungry for diner food.

Content Warning: Neil talks with many people along the way who have diverse backgrounds and circumstances. I did not take note of all the content warnings, but each is hit on pretty briefly.
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