.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Grace Notes February 25, 2016

-A A +A

Be winsome to win some

By NANCY KENNEDY
Ask a group of restaurant servers which is their least favorite shift to work and their number one answer will be Sunday after church.

It seems we churchgoers are a cranky bunch when we’re hungry, and that’s putting it politely.

Their consensus of us is that we’re demanding and rude. We sit in large groups and stay longer than we should, discussing the morning’s sermon (or latest church gossip), commenting on the heathens at the nearby table drinking Bloody Marys.

We ask our server, “Why aren’t you in church -- don’t you know Sunday is the Lord’s day?”

Then we leave a miserly tip -- with a gospel tract -- and exit the restaurant pleased that we may have won another soul for Jesus.

In the words of the late comedian Joan Rivers: Can we talk?

We Christians sometimes don’t do a very good job at being ambassadors for Christ.

Years ago, I wrote a story for the paper about servant evangelism. The concept involves Christians sharing the love of Christ to their community in practical ways, no strings attached. No passing out tracts, no preaching, no immediate, direct presentation of the gospel.

Just serving -- washing windows, cutting grass, handing out bottles of water on a hot day.

Although Christians showing kindness isn’t anything new, servant evangelism became a thing a number of years ago after a 2003 Gallup poll reported that nearly half of U.S. adults did not have a “great deal” of confidence in organized religion.
Also that same year, a Barna Research Group conducted a nationwide sample of non-Christian adults ranking 11 groups, which included military officers, lawyers, actors, real-estate agents and others.  

Evangelical Christians ranked 10th, just ahead of prostitutes.

Ouch.

Back when I wrote about servant evangelism, the pastor leading the project told me of a study conducted by another church. It’s actually quite facinating.

In that study they determined that it takes approximately seven or eight positive encounters with the gospel before a person is open to the idea of becoming a Christian.

(Note: This isn’t an exact science, only a general theory based on observation.)

Here’s how it works:

Let’s take your neighbor, Bob. Picture a straight-line graph with zero in the middle and let’s put Bob at minus-12. In order for his heart to be open to receiving Christ, he needs to be at plus-eight.

So, maybe a Christian coworker corners Bob in the break room one day, shoves a gospel tract in his hand and says, “Repent or burn, buddy.”

Bob is turned off by that and goes down to minus-13.

Maybe later he observes someone returning too much change to a grocery store cashier and then sees the person get into a car with a Christian bumper sticker. Bob’s touched by the person’s honesty and as he thinks about it, he goes up a notch on the graph.

The tricky part is, with the continual positive and negative gospel encounters going on, no one except God ever really knows exactly where Bob (or anyone) is on the graph.

A recent servant evangelism report from ChurchLeaders.com points out that it’s not the kind deeds themselves that move a person’s heart to accept Christ, but the Holy Spirit.

As Tampa pastor Ed Russo of Victorious Life Church says, “It puts into practice the scripture that says it’s the kindness of God that leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). As we show kindness to people by showing God’s love in a practical way, it draws them closer to God.”

Those who practice these random acts of kindness in the name of Jesus do so relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about repentance and eventual faith when a person is ready to hear and receive the message of the gospel.

What does this mean for us? Well, for starters, we can stop being cranky to restaurant servers on Sundays after church.

We can stop being demanding, stop being self-righteous.

We can show mercy to those who desperately need it, forgiveness to even those we think don’t deserve it.

We can be gentle and patient, not self-seeking, not boastful, not easily angered or envious, not nit picky, bombastic, preachy or proud.

“Preach the gospel at all times,” St. Francis of Assisi once said, “and when necessary, use words.”

Kindness first, words last.

Your neighbor Bob will thank you.   

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927  or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com. Follow her on Twitter at @nancykchronicle.