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Shhhh - Witnessing

Up too early this morning, but the only time really when I've got some quiet to myself before the kids wake up. So I'm blog-surfing and catching up on the news, and I was prompted by this post on Tana's blog to recall a story from a few years ago.

Friends of ours own a Wings & Ribs place close to town. They're Christians, and one of their waitstaff was a very smiley bouncey Christian young woman. One of the bar regulars one night, out of the blue, asked her: "Why are you so happy all the time?" She smiled and responded, "Because I've got the love of Jesus in my heart" (big smile). To which he replied, "Oh-kay" - and left. You could argue that the exchange planted a seed, that she was loving in her bounciness and did share the love of Jesus in her response. I think that's what she did, but I also think there could've been more.

My friend, co-owner of the establishment, wanted to be more "out there" with her faith, "witness" like that to people. She was actually disappointed that she didn't think she would've responded like the server did in the same situation. In trying to encourage her, I wanted to show a different way of "witnessing" that's brought different and longer-lasting results and conversations over the years. Here's the way I would've played out the same scenario:
    Customer (C): So tell me, why are you so happy all the time?
    Server (S): Excuse me?
    C (asking again): Well, you smile all the time, and I've never seen you get upset even at jerk customers in here. Why are you so happy all the time?
    S: Why am I so happy all the time?
    C (re-stating again): Yeah - why?
    S: I can't tell you.
    C (???): Huh?
    S: I can't tell you. It's a secret.
In the actual conversation, giving the "answer" so quickly just about killed the moment. We're primed to jump all over someone asking questions like that, instead of engaging them in a real give-and-take relationship.
    C: It's a secret?
    S: If I told you, I'd have to kill you.
    C (chuckling, hopefully): Heheheh, okay - tell me your secret, and I'll take my chances.
    S: I don't think you're ready for that.
    C: Why not?
    S: It'll change you life forever, like it did mine. I don't want that kind of pressure.
    C (intrigued): What is it? Herbalife?
    S: Ok, but I warned you that this might change your whole life. Here it is - I know Jesus.
    C: Wha-?
    S: Jesus. He has me completely. He's made such a huge change in me that you've noticed, too.
Who knows where it goes after that, but I've had variations on that theme over the years with people who "see me everyday". I've just found that there's a deeper relationship to be built with a little playfulness and a smile rather than taking ahold of the conversation and having to turn it into a "witnessing moment". After exchanges such as this, I've had more follow-up chats, more real friendships, more lasting relationships than I feel I would've if I'd been more "Jesus is the Answer" in responding to questions.


Blogger Renee said...

WOW! This is a great post brotha Rick!!:-)

Hopefully i will get to use that at some point!!

20/7/05 10:00 AM  
Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

I have noticed that we cannot speak like Christians. We tend to witness as if we were talking to other Christians in a type of Christ-speak. I got called on that by a friend who manages a comedy club (talk about darkness!!!) and he asked about my faith. And I started to give him the usual speal and he stopped me and said I was using rhettoric, not really conveying what I believe. It has been a thought of mine ever since. In a call in show a teen who was an atheist was confronted by a christian who said she felt sorry for the atheist and was going to pray for her and the bible was the book of truth. Ok, to an athiest the bible is meaningless and offering to pray a waste of time. So what do we do?

20/7/05 10:39 AM  
Blogger The Light Fantastic said...

Hey, thanks for voting for my blog on BOTBs.

20/7/05 10:53 AM  
Blogger SwamiOfSwank said...

oh dear. If you were a waitress and you did that, Mr Customer might just think you're flirting. Frankly, I'd be pretty annoyed and irritated with all the clap-trap and would rather have had just the straight answer she gave.

Then the ball would be in my court as to whether I continued the conversation - right where the decision about it should be.

22/7/05 7:31 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

hmmmm.......... interesting point, and you might be right on that count. the point i was making is that so many times it's about "closing the deal" and "saying the right thing" instead of just being honest or having a regular conversation.

you're right about the conversation being "in your court", but i don't think the exchange above takes away that decision, does it? and it makes the whole deal stand out in your mind, so when both folks walk away, they've talked instead of just exchanging pleasantries.

but you're right - there's a line from "the big kahuna" where one of the characters says, "anytime you put your hands on a conversation to steer it, you stop being human and start being a salesman." thanks for the input. hmmmm.

22/7/05 9:03 AM  

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