Talking Winsomely With the Lost
Last week, we discussed the importance of engaging with the lost with the intent of making disciples of Jesus. We talked about how we need to make it a priority to prayerfully and intentionally touch base with those around us, just as Jesus did. Just as Jesus "looked up" towards Zacchaeus as he passed through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem (see Luke 19:5) we must take the time and effort to look towards the lost that we pass by every day in our neighborhoods, at work, or even at home.
This week, I want to talk about the next step we can take in the process of making a disciple. When we make eye contact that communicates genuine care to a frustrated colleague, or after we wave to a neighbor with a warm smile, or maybe after asking a lost family member of ours how they are doing with sincere concern, where do we go from there? I suggest that we go where interactions seem to naturally go after initial contact. I suggest that we seek to simply talk with the potential disciple of Jesus.
Now this step requires some real effort on our part. How often do we initiate truly warm and caring conversations with others? It's one thing to wave at my neighbor (and maybe even ask the obligatory, "How are you doing?") as I'm leaving to go to work in the morning. It's another thing to ask, "What's your name (if you don't really know them well)?" Or, "How is your daughter doing (if you do know something about them)?" Etc...
At this point, we're basically looking to ask (although not in these words), "Who are you, really? What is your life really like? What do your circumstances look like right now? How are they affecting you?" We want to engage with the lost in such a way that leaves them feeling like we really want to know them, and sincerely care about their struggles.
Basically, we're looking to communicate with what Paul might call "salty speech." In Colossians 4:5-6, he exhorts the church at Colossae, "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." As we consider the awesome responsibility of engaging with the lost, we must do it with wisdom and a sense of urgency, and Paul says that this manifests itself in the way that we communicate with them.
The thing about salt in Paul's time is that it made everything better. I don't know how much we really understand just how much salt enhances our eating experience. Suffice it to say that eating meat, potatoes, soup, vegetables, and just about any cooked food is actually very boring without salt. You see, salt flavors food to make it savory, to make us really want it. Paul says this is how our speech should be. He explains how grace should so flavor our speech that it makes people really want to talk with us. And this is what happens when we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with sincere love for the lost.
So where are you at with this? Maybe you're putting the touch step into action with someone you know (and praise the Lord if you are!), but don't feel compelled to engage with this person with this next step. What should you do? Pray. Right before Paul gives this exhortation to the Colossians, he tells them to "continue steadfastly in prayer," and then asks for prayer himself so that he would share the gospel in a clear and compelling way (see Col. 4:2-4). When you think about it, this is simply another way we imitate Jesus. Praise God that Jesus' winsome and irresistible grace compelled you to listen to him! Let's follow our Savior in this.
With this in mind, let me encourage you to do two things: (1) Pray for God to give you the heart Paul is seeking to stir up in the Colossians. Pray that you would see the savory nature of Jesus' call on your life and seek to extend that grace to a particular person you know; and (2) Reach out to that person this week. As you pray for a bold love that seeks to communicate genuine care to this person, touch base with him or her, and with genuine love ask them about something that matters to them. By cultivating this relationship in this way, by God's grace, you are tilling the soil of his or her heart in order to soon effectively communicate the thing that should ultimately matter to them: the gospel.