I read Dear Amy this morning. As I have often mentioned, Dear Abby and Dear Amy provide wonderful fodder for this ministry because the people that write to them are so lost and confused about the relationships in their life, and almost never do I read a letter from a Believing person asking for advice. Maybe, just maybe, that’s because we have a better adviser to ask.
In any event, the letter this morning had to do with someone whose friend is emotionally unstable and despite being close for many years, the writer is concerned about her own health and how dealing with her friend is draining her. She wants to know how to break away without totally closing her friend out.
I feel the same way, often, about family and friends who are not Believers, who desperately need God in their lives, and whom I try to tell about God and about the wonderful peace I receive from knowing Him and having the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) in my life (despite the sad truth that I often fail to show this peacefulness, I DO have it.)
I try to tell people of God, I bring him up in conversation, even with clients (which is not always appropriate so I am very careful in how I do that) and I throw out my line with a little bait to see what I can catch.
What I do is simply add to the conversation something from the Bible, but I won’t say “The lord tells us this or that”; instead, I will lead off with, “I read this in a really good book about relationships, and the book said…..”. If they ask me the name of the book, then they have taken the bait. After I tell them it’s the Bible, and it was said by (whomever), I will follow up with , “Have you ever read the bible?”
This is an example of how I bring God into the conversation, slowly, deliberately, and with an open-ended aim: all I want to do is plant a seed. That is what the aim of today’s message is about: we need to plant a seed, we need to know when we can “hold ’em” (keep going on with the conversation) and know when to “fold ’em” (let it go if they don’t want to discuss it.)
People don’t like having something jammed down their throats, especially something as exotic tasting as spiritual things. They don’t want to hear that they are wrong in what they say and do, and that most everyone they know (friends, family and acquaintances) have all steered them in the wrong direction. Remember the old adage: birds of a feather flock together. That means people who aren’t “saved” won’t be hanging around with Believers. So, when we start to tell them about God, about the Torah and Yeshua, and what it means to be saved, and what it takes to stay saved, they are hearing the kind of stuff they have been ignoring their whole life.
And they don’t really want to hear it.
It is up to us to be patient, to understand what they are going through. I think the fact that so many Believers have been raised that way, or accepted Messiah at a young age, could make them poor missionaries simply because they can’t relate to what the people are going through when they hear the Good News. I know what it is like to have people preach the Good News to me before I was saved by it- it was annoying. Because I spent so many years on the “outside”, I know when to hold and when to fold. And because I remember what it was like, I have the patience to allow them to accept what they will and reject what they need to.
And, yes- they NEED to reject what we tell them because if they don’t, they have to admit they have been lied to by everyone they have ever trusted and admired their whole life.
What we need to do is allow them the time they need to process that the people who have misled them have done so innocently, because they, too, were misled by those they trusted and admired. The incorrect teaching of the “Church” goes all the way back to Constantine in the Third Century CE. It’s been going on for quite a while.
When you talk to people about God, remember to say little and watch very, very carefully their response. You need to play your hand well, to watch what they discard and what they pick up, and (ultimately) when to call and when to fold.
Missionary work is not spiritual- it is sales. You have to ask what they feel they are missing, listen to what they think they want and make sure you only tell them what they need to hear, and it all starts with listening. Too often people go out there and just talk talk talk about God, without letting the other person tell them what they feel they need.
David says, in Psalm 38, that we should “taste and see that the Lord is good“; well, when you have something rammed down your throat you don’t get a chance to taste it. We need to let them savor the flavor of salvation, let them smell the steak sizzling on the grill, smell the bread fresh from the oven, let the aroma of peace and joy fill their nostrils to the point where they want more.
And when they ask, that’s the time we can, bite by bite, let them taste more of the Lord.
Most people will not make a leap of faith- they won’t go “all in” right away. They will make small bets, watch their cards and be very wary of the other players. We need to deal honestly with them (pun intended) and go at their pace, not ours.
Offer, wait, watch, listen, and most important of all, be patient- those are tools you need in your creel when you go fishing for people. Also, know when to cut the line and re-bait your hook.
It’s not how big the fish is, but how many you end up catching.