When I was in high school, I studied both French and Spanish. Because of my participation in French club as well as other language related events, I was invited to participate in a two-week trip to Paris, France to increase my language skills. Of course, the catch was my parents had to pay for the trip. I, of course, was thrilled at this opportunity and really, really, really wanted to go!
After my mother said, “No” and my father said, Let’s see how we can work this out.” I knew I’d be going. I started making my plans for all that I would see and do. I was excited about the Louvre, the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and more. I could hardly wait!
The time for the adventure came and everything was awesome!! Little did I know then that this adventure would birth in me a desire to go everywhere on the planet to see what it’s like in different places. I’ve been fortunate that through personal and professional travel I’ve been to many places on this tiny ball whirling in space that we call Earth or “home.”
I’ve learned much, met astonishing people, ate strange and sometimes awesome food, examined ruins, heard historical reports, watched people interact as they talk, drive, live and move about. The adventures have been and are awesome. Writing this, I’m already thinking about where I can go next!!
In Matthew 28, Jesus reminded His disciples then and His disciples today that we are “to go and make disciples of all nations …” I believed as a young person that God was calling me to go somewhere to make disciples. My understanding then was to be a missionary. I’ve learned since then that the original language means, “while you are going,” not just “Go!” Because of life choices, I never became a “missionary” to a foreign land but “while I’m going” on this little planet, my role is to make disciples.
Often that happens at church or through those I meet in faith-based meetings or events. But I go to lots of other places and the mandate is “while I’m going…” So where do I go? Where do you go? We miss opportunities all the time to make a disciple because we’re not watching, waiting, listening, etc. The gift of evangelism is not a requirement, but the precious gift of unconditional love given to us by Jesus is meant to be shared!
Here are three ways to open the door to important conversations:
1. Attentive Listening
Really listening to what the other person is saying rather than just the words coming out of their mouth is key. Unfortunately, most of the time, we’re thinking of a cute, clever, funny, brilliant answer to what we think their words mean. Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 1:5, “… let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance.”
2. A Gentle and Kind Spirit
People can sense a kind and gentle spirit. How people sense you are feeling opens the way for important conversations. Timothy admonishes, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach… (2 Timothy 2:24). In today’s world, it’s often difficult to find people who are kind and gentle in their response to anything, whether it’s politics, the person who bags your groceries or the person who brings your food, as you dine out. People who are kind and gentle stand out!
Genuinely caring about someone’s life story as well as trying to feel what they feel or felt opens the way to these conversations too. Solomon again reminds us, “Whoever is patient has great understanding … (Proverbs 14:29). Empathy is patient understanding, caring for and about the other to guide them into a better way of life – a life with Jesus!
Everywhere we go, there are people who need attentive listeners, who are kind and gentle and who are empathic to the story being told. You don’t have to go across oceans but to your neighborhood, your church and, perhaps, your home.
Take Jesus’ commandment to heart and “while you are going, make disciples…”