From Kay Meyer's column in the St. Louis Metro Voice newspaper from 1994 to 2013.
The hostess at the restaurant greeted me as I entered. The restaurant was empty so we continued to talk. She asked why I was at the conference center. I explained that I was a speaker at the Lutheran Parenting Convention being held in her city. As we began to get acquainted I asked about her and her family. She told me she had a 16-year-old daughter. I told her about my three grown children and that I was speaking at the conference on “Media and Its Impact on Today’s Children!” Soon she was telling me that she was having discipline problems with her daughter. She began to ask questions. “What does the Bible have to say about parenting? Does it say anything about discipline?” We visited for ten minutes before another customer entered the restaurant. During those God-ordained quiet minutes I learned she had come to the United States from Germany 12 years before, that her teenage daughter was causing her great concern, and that she hadn’t attended church since before she left Germany. Before we ended the conversation, she asked me where she could find a church that would help her learn more about God and how to parent—God’s Way!
Conversations about spiritual issues frequently occur as I get acquainted with those I meet each day. How about you? Are you engaging people in conversations about life? And waiting for the Lord to open doors to talk about spiritual issues?
Did you know the unchurched population continues to grow? Many of those who are unchurched (and even many within the church) don’t know God’s Word. For example: George Barna’s Research has documented that 64% of those who are unchurched say that a good person can earn his or her way to heaven. And 44% of unchurched adults define God as an entity other than the perfect, all powerful, all knowing Creator of the universe. In the past three years, the unchurched adult population has risen. Now 40% of the Busters are unchurched and 38% of them are men! How will we reach these people for Christ? Learning to engage them in spiritual conversations is the way to begin!
How do we engage people in the secular world with a spiritual message? How can you and I learn to engage those we meet in conversations about spiritual issues? This was our topic on a recent Family Shield radio program. My guest was Rev. Steven Siegel, Director of United States Ministries of Lutheran Hour Ministries. He shared several stories of how he engages people in conversations about life. Frequently this leads to sharing a spiritual message. The following is one of his stories.
“I travel a lot with my job. One evening I arrived late to pick up my rental car that was reserved and began a discussion with the young woman waiting for me. I was her last customer of the evening.
The discussion began as she asked my name. Rather than the normal reaction that I often get of ‘Steven Segal – the actor (spelling), she said, “No I wasn’t thinking of him, I was thinking of Bugsy Siegel.”
I responded with a laugh and said, “What does a young women like yourself know about a 1920’s gangster? She explained that she had lived in Las Vegas for a while and had done a school report about him while she was in school.”
We continued to get acquainted. Soon I asked her another question, “So, why are you working in Detroit?” She explained that she had been working in Las Vegas until recently, but had left when she had a great disappointment in her life. Soon she was telling me that she had been left at the altar on her wedding day. It had been a heartbreaking experience for her. She had taken the first job that came along just to get away. I extended my sympathy and listened to her as she shared her hurt, anger, and frustration. Then I shared a disappointment I have gone through. Being open and real about my life continued to open the door of opportunity with her.
Finally I asked, “So how are you doing dealing with these disappointments and challenges in you life? Other then, leaving Las Vegas?”
She responded, “Not very well.”
Then I asked if I could share something that I thought might help her. I always ask permission to share information with those I meet. Readers might be interested to know that Lutheran Hour Ministries offers a training seminar entitled, “Equipping to Share.” We help Christians learn how to do this effectively. Seldom has anyone ever said “no” to this question. She said “yes.”
“I told her that the God I knew was gracious, compassionate and loving, that He would walk with her through every challenge of life, and that He had a plan for her life. She listened attentively. Then she asked me several questions. Even though she was unchurched, she was interested in discussing spiritual issues! I ended our conversation by telling her I would pray for her. And I do!
Kay, I could have closed down the discussion numerous times. I could have raised barriers by becoming angry that she had compared me to a 1920’s gangster. I didn’t. I just laughed when she made that comparison. I could have been judgmental or criticized her for selecting a finance that was an illegal immigrant or said something negative about her working in Las Vegas. Again, I didn’t.
I begin each day by praying that the Lord would open a door for me to engage those I meet in spiritual conversations. He does! Doors fly open everywhere. I listen, show concern, ask questions, and am open about challenges I’ve faced in life. People like to talk about themselves. Just ask questions. Be real. And allow the Lord to open the doors.
Consider how you might engage those you meet each day in spiritual conversations. Pray that God will open doors of opportunity. Grow in God’s grace. Study and grow in the knowledge of God’s Word. Ask and respond to questions. Listen attentively. Show concern. Then ‘go’ through the door when God opens it.
Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20).
by Kay L. Meyer