Planting Seeds

(Note: This post is the long-delayed completion of Creative Bridge Building.”)

“So what about it,” I asked my co-worker friend. “Will you give me the words to that rap song?” He became embarrassed and laughed sheepishly. He finally said no. When I asked why he said, “Because you’re a Christian.”

My purpose was not to scold or nag him about the dirty lyrics. Instead I talked about why God’s moral standard applies to all of us, whether we claim to live by it or not. Three or four other co-workers became curious and gathered round to listen. One in particular entered the discussion with great vigor. He attempted to defend the lyrics as “merely entertainment.”

The best result of that conversation was that it spawned others. One co-worker came to me later and said, “One thing that has always bothered me is why God created me, knowing that I would rebel against him and go to Hell.” Well, that was more than I expected. But it did remind me that often, below the surface, people do think about eternal matters.

The Gospel is not hard to explain. The hard part is getting people to listen. How can we get their attention without being pushy or manipulative? Here are two suggestions.

Suspend judgment

This is hard in an environment that is filled with offensive language and behavior. But it can go a long way to opening minds. Suspending judgment keeps relationships open. I could have simply told my co-workers how offensive their rap was and asked them to turn it off, but that would have turned off the conversation too. No conversation, no progress. As it turned out, the rap stopped, but the conversations have increased.

Suspending judgment also keeps the conversation calm. Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason Ministries puts it this way: “If I become angry, I lose. If the other person becomes angry, I lose. If anyone becomes angry, I lose.”

Suspending judgment does not require us to withhold truth, but it does give us time to understand others better, to understand how they feel. It allows us to open our minds to understand their thinking. We need to know not only what others think, but how they think.

Ask questions

When encountering ungodly thinking, many of us are poised to give an answer to correct the wrong. After all, is that not what the Bible says to do? Yes, but I have found that an indirect approach is often more productive. If suspending judgment gives the opportunity to understand others, then asking questions provides the means.

Besides helping us gain an understanding of others, questions can also be used to lead them to consider a truth that they otherwise would miss or avoid. I have experienced this with a   co-worker friend. Numerous conversations with him over several months and recent events have revealed many foolish choices leading to many broken relationships, including the one he is in now. After a recent crisis I gently pointed out to him that his greatest need is to deal with his fractured relationship with God. He agreed, but has not yet taken any steps toward that.

Several days later that topic surfaced again during a seemingly unrelated conversation. Again I broached the subject of his relationship with God. He responded, “I’ve always tried to deal with these things on my own.” After several moments I asked him, “How well has that worked?” He did not respond, so I let him ponder the answer himself.

Often that is all we can do directly. Are we doing that much? God has put certain people in our lives. Are we engaging them with grace and truth? Fruitful results await us. But they will not come until we plant the seeds.

 

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6 Responses to Planting Seeds

  1. Robert says:

    Our mutual friend Jonathan suggested I checkout your site, and I am glad he did. As for your conversations with your co-workers, I am of the opinion the most important tool you (we) have is a personal testamony. Without it your rap fan would not have taken your thoughts/beliefs into consideration when you requested a copy of the words of that particular “song”.

    Of course there is also their own background. I work around a few folks who go to a church every so often, and since they avoid the number 666 (I am not kidding) they seem quite content with their relationship with God; so their less than proper vocabulary, their listening to wordly music (in this case it’s country) plus their improper relationships with other people are not relevent to them. If, due to what I assume some may take away from their occasional trips to what may be a less than Biblically based church, one very well may not realize they are living a sinful life and one will probably not understand their actions need serious attention. So if I were to ask for a copy of the words to a song they listen to, they could very well not see what your co-worker saw.

    Thanks again for your site, I hope to visit it often!

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    • Thanks for your on-the-mark comments Robert. You are quite right about the importance of personal testimony. I have had to give constant attention to showing each of my co-workers that I truly care about each of them. It is often hard but always rewarding.

      I know exactly what you mean about the number 666. I’ve seen it many times. It’s that kind of superstition that sometimes makes me feel that I’m living back in the times of the Biblical judges.

      I now think that most of the people who live in my corner of the world are “leavers,” those who have left Christian churches with enough of a knowledge of the Gospel to make them want to “get on God’s good side” but no personal submission to Jesus as King. It’s a constant challenge to learn how to respond in a Spirit-guided, grace filled way to show the self-defeating nature of nominal Church-ianity.

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  2. Kathleen says:

    So, how would you say is the best way to respond when you feel yourself getting angry and wanting to respond in anger?

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    • My practice now is to first speak with Holy Spirit. I ask for His strength to close the door of my lips until words of grace are ready, and for wisdom to think of those words. I then try to channel the anger I feel into positive energy by immediately rehearsing in my mind how the conversation ought to go. What would I say to the person that would force him to face himself and reflect on what he just said or did? I try to come up with a question (because questions are almost always better). My best response will be pointed but still given in such a way that the other person will sense not revenge but goodwill. I then try to put myself in the other person’s place and listen to my words and attitude. If my words sound emotion-provoking rather than thought-provoking, then I wait.

      Understand that I went through many offending situations before the conversations that I wrote about took place. The satisfaction of giving gracious and effective responses is worth the wait. Also, these conversations are revived on a regular basis, so I’m looking for the next opportunity and rehearsing my next response. The goal is always to point people to the One Who is “full of grace and truth.”

      Hope that helps. If not, feel free to prod further.

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  3. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for getting me the link to your blog – lots of good, thought-provoking stuff on here. I especially struggle with how to share Christ with others, and you have given some good, practical tips (also enjoyed & appreciated your comments about fellowship with & encouragement of those who are already Christians, as well).

    Look forward to seeing more, regular posts!

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  4. Julia Dobbins says:

    Great lesson!

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