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Talk With Themby Duane Mabee on March 16, 2017
In their book Upended Medefind & Lokkesmoe quote Mother Teresa as saying “Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.”
Think about that. It’s true, isn’t it? It is easy to talk about the poor. It’s easy to talk about inner city violence. It’s easy to discuss race relations. It is easy to talk about at risk teens. Identifying the problems and giving perceived solutions come naturally. Talking about them puts us above the people and situations we discuss. But, actually talking with the people involved, that’s quite another story.
The same can be said about the lost. To play off Mother Teresa’s comments, in the church it is fashionable to talk about the lost. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them. That is far more difficult – so, it seems.
A challenge was issued in one of our board and elders meetings that I would like to extend to all of us. One of our elders challenged us to strike up a conversation with someone while waiting in line at a checkout counter. Then, to make the last question we ask the person something like, “Where do you go to church?” That’s a simple idea, but I bet it makes some of us, including me, breakout in a cold sweat. Why? Talking about the lost is fashionable. Talking with them isn’t.
Part of the reason we find talking with the lost so difficult is that we think we need to know what to say. We have, in a way, placed ourselves above them. With that comes the pressure of being the one who has all the answers, and we know we don’t. We also have a strong, and probably accurate sense, that they don’t want to hear our answers. Let me encourage you. You don’t need to know what to say.
Let’s think about starting somewhere else. Why not start where we want people to start with us? When you meet someone for the first time, do you want them to tell you what you to do in an area of your life that they know nothing about? If they did, your response would probably be, “You don’t know me or my situation, how can you tell me what to do?” And, you would be right to feel that way.
Why not turn that scenario around? Why not get to know them, first – really get to know them? Instead of talking to them, why not talk with them? That involves listening to them with a desire to understand them. It means hearing their stories and caring about what impacts them. It means, not needing to know what to say in the beginning, just asking the kinds of questions you would like to be asked by someone you just met. It means showing them that you value them as they are. Then, as you get to know them, you will realize that you do know what to say to them about Christ, because you know their needs. You will also discover that they are more open to listening. Go out and talk with some non-believers this week. Make it your aim to just get to know them. See how it goes.