Slideshow image
I have a fear: a fear of talking to strangers. This fear is especially pronounced when I am have no status or recognition in a conversation. In other words, this fear doesn’t manifest itself when someone new comes to church- back when that was a thing. In that context, I’m the pastor. There’s a legitimacy to me approaching this person I’ve never met before. But talking to someone on the street, in the check-out line, that kind of thing? Really out of my comfort zone. I want to be one of those people who effortlessly strike up conversations with people they meet on the street. I especially would love to be able to do that and have conversations with people about Jesus. I really do love people and getting to know them, and I really love it when people get to know Jesus!
.
As many of you know, last week for our family was a memorable, milestone kind of week. Zachary had his second (and hopefully final) open-heart surgery, an operation we were anticipating since he was in the womb. As many of you know, the surgery and the recovery have gone so, so well- beyond what was expected, as doctors and nurses made note of. We have been so blessed by so many of you who have expressed prayers, encouragement and support. We have felt overwhelming grateful for so many unearned, unmerited blessings. We have no illusion that we deserve any of this goodness.
.
But what I want to draw on here are a number of experiences I had in conversation with people.
.
See, I found an empowering to spark conversations with “strangers” on a basis other than my position or status- one that is based on common ground with others. I initiated a number of conversations with people with the simple question: “do you have a child here too?” Of course, they all did. Why else would you be at BC Children’s Hospital as an adult who is not a staff person in the midst of a pandemic that prohibits non-parent visitors? And some of these conversations led to sharing a bit of our testimony, because inevitably the conversation turned to my child that was here, which inevitably turned to our gratitude for the grace we had received.
.
We had those conversations with nurses and doctors as well. As nurses came in and served (so skillfully and compassionately), we had the opportunity to ask questions about how long they had been there, where they were from, which led to opportunities to thank them and encourage them for the awesome work they were doing, and often led to opportunities to mention the number of people who were praying for Zachary. One nurse shared about a recent personal loss, and we were able to leave a note for her and a card expressing God’s care for her.
.
Those kinds of conversations have continued among our neighbours since we’ve come home. The question of “how are you guys doing?” or “what’s been going on with you?” inevitably leads to mentioning Zachary’s surgery, which leads to mention of the amazing church we’ve had supporting us, and how his recovery has gone, and how we’ve seen God in all this, and…you’re getting the picture here.
.
The point is, these conversations, many of them with strangers, have been so life-giving for me to have. I don’t want them to stop! I want to grow in my willingness to strike up conversations with people I don’t know and to have those conversations naturally, organically, point to Jesus. Here are some of the things I’m learning, just to sum up what I’ve seen this past week:
.
Be aware of common ground. In the hospital, it was the experience of having children undergoing a surgery. But there are things that unite us in other ways. Covid happenings are another commonality shared with those we come across. A recent conversation with a neighbour was sparked by reflecting on the tragedy of the stabbing in Lynn Valley. In that situation, I was able to share a little bit about the hope that I have because of Jesus’ resurrection after events like this. I don’t know if that made any sense to him, and he didn’t ask further about it, but it was an authentic response on my part to a current situation impacting both of us in various ways.
Be unashamed to mention God. It doesn’t need to be a pushy thing. If you really believe that God is sovereign, that every good thing comes from Him, then talk about your life in a way that reflects that.
Focus on blessing. Asking what you can pray for someone about is a really inoffensive way of speaking to who you are and to what you believe can change things. Look for ways to encourage and affirm. Tell people you interact with in the service industry how much you appreciate their work.
Pray. Pray for opportunities, and pray for boldness. I’ve been praying for that for a while, and it was really, really encouraging to experience the Holy Spirit empowering me in a way that was an answer to those prayers.
.
I’m far from an ideal example of evangelism. I fail way more often than I succeed. Even my successes are probably filled with moments of regrettable awkwardness. But it’s something I want to grow in, and I hope you do too! Take these as words from a fellow traveller, often stumbling and halting, but straining towards the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.
.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)