I was having my usual three eggs over easy with white toast and coffee this morning, while reading, listening, and learning. In fact, I don't even order anymore. When I come in, Donna brings my coffee and water and puts my order in. That's the price of predictability I suppose.
I finished a book entitled a.k.a. Lost,by Jim Henderson (The link is to the newly revised and retitled edition). I quoted from it a couple of weeks ago. It is a fairly short book (152 pages), filled mostly with observations about ordinary evangelism. It is an interesting read, with some good insights (and some bad ones). The forward by Brian McLaren will give a little insight as to where the author and book are coming from. But it still contains some useful challenges. If you can get it cheap, it might be worth an hour or so to read. Or perhaps someone will loan it to you (like they did to me).
Perhaps more than any thought in the book, the general impression I come away with is that we need to spend more time listening ... actually listening. Ask people questions and then see what they say. Avoid pat answers and cliches. Avoid arm twisting and manipulation. Be real. Avoid, at least at the outset, questions designed to get a particular response.
Too often our typical approach to evangelism is preset, molded to fit a particular situation. And our evangelistic approach is to manipulate the conversation so we can get situated to insert our preformed discussions. Lack of flexibility and creativity actually harm the process. Listening to people rather than forcefeeding Jesus to them will help build trust and a relationship in which Jesus naturally comes into focus.
As with all books, exercise due caution and discernment. And don't blame me for the bad stuff. I am only recommending the good stuff in it.
While I was reading, the normal morning conversation was going on in the background. There were complaints about the local school system (a.k.a total failure central). One lady complained that a particular child she knew was now on her second four day suspension of the year. (I quickly did the math. School has only been in session for eight days.) Her basic complaint was that the school was being too hard on children. My thought was that the parents have not been hard enough on children. Here's how you know I was never suspended from school: I am still alive.
The other general topic of conversation was actually more interesting to me. It was about men and women. Of course, the women were talking about the men. One lady commented that men were only good for two things: sex and paying the bills. Another lady complained that her husband just went to work (about half the time, she surmised), and then came home and did nothing ... didn't carry out the trash, clean up the kitchen, do the housework, or anything else. She had to get him up for work, and even lay out his clothes on the bed. Another lady said, "You know why he won't do those things? Because you always do it."
The men, of course, were talking about women. One single man (his wife died a few years ago) is always talking about finding a woman. Today, he said he wanted a woman who would stay home and not talk. A few minutes later he said he wanted a woman who would go to work and not say anything. One lady pointed out that he said he wanted a woman who would both stay home and work. He said he didn't care as long as she didn't talk.
Another man commented that he heard someone once say that if you treat a woman like (insert common four letter expletive for body waste), she will come back for me; if you treat her like a queen, she will leave you. He is probably right, to at least some degree, especially on the first.
What this long summary reminds me of is this: We live in a broken world. Sinfulness has killed our relationships. The marriage relationship, designed by God to be the closest human relationship, is probably the relationship most affected by sin. Men look at women wrongly; women return the favor. Until we begin to regain a basic civil recognition that both men and women are in the image of God, while also recognizing the depths of sin that affects our relationships, we will never recognize that the only real hope for marriages is redemption found only in Christ. That is why Ephesians 5 says marriage is a redemption issue. Love your wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. Submit to your husbands like the church submits to Christ. Only when we have experienced redemption in Christ can we truly recognized what it means to have a good marriage. And even then it will be hard. Until then, we are simply shoring up a shaky house with toothpicks. If you use enough, and walk very softly, you can keep it from falling in. But you can never make it stronger.
Most marriages seem to consist of two people who use each other until they find something better. They should consist of two people who serve each other because they found Jesus, or rather Jesus found them.
Until we learn to ask the question, we will always have bad marriages, or at least marriages that aren't what they should be. What is the question? "How can I serve you?" Or "How can I help you?" Or "How can I make your life better?" Learn it ... ask it ... act on it.