My dad and I used to go out to breakfast every Tuesday morning when I was in High School. We’d wake up 5:30a and drive to Bob Evans. If you’ve never had Bob Evans, you don’t know what you’re missing. They have biscuits and brown gravy that is to die for! It’ll change your life. I remember my weekly order: 2 Biscuits with a bowl (yes, a whole bowl) of brown gravy, home fries, and hot coffee. I’m salivating at my desk just thinking about it.
A lot of times on our breakfast outings, my dad would invite someone else to go along. It was always fun having guests accompany us on our breakfast mornings. Old guys have good stories and I was always the youngest one at the table, so I was always hearing good stories. Not to mention, my dad’s friends loved talking to me about me. And let’s be honest, everybody likes to talk about themselves. I loved when we had guests at breakfast, because it often meant I’d get to brag on myself in answering their questions.
One of my dad’s friends was a man named Kevin. Kevin was a character, but Kevin knew how to make you feel special. Have you ever been around someone that treats you like you’re the most important person in the world? And you leave that conversation feeling like a million bucks? This is what breakfast with Kevin is like. He has a unique gifting to always direct the conversation back to you… No matter where the conversation goes, Kevin has a way of always getting back to taking an interest in whoever he’s talking to. If holding a conversation was an art, Kevin was a master. Every time I left breakfast after he joined us, I felt on top of the world, encouraged, and ready to take on the day. I’ll never forget Kevin because of the way he made me feel.
It’s easy to be self-absorbed. Our self-made, self-obsessed, and selfie-taking culture breeds pride, arrogance, and selfishness. We are quicker to talk about ourselves and our accomplishments because we want people to know how special and great we are. We find clever ways to work into conversation how much money we make, the experiences we’ve had, or how #blessed we are. Admit it, you think you’re pretty awesome.
I’ve found, however, that nothing will ruin a relationship quicker than talking about yourself. Most people don’t care how much you make or where you’ve travelled in the world. Most people just want to know that you care about them. And if you want to help people find and follow Jesus, you need to get better at the art of engaging with people in what matters to them.
Jesus used fisherman language when calling the first disciples. He told parables and used everyday illustrations that his listeners could relate to. He took time out of his day to talk with people that society had rejected. Every time Jesus opened his mouth, he was communicating to people that they mattered. Jesus knew how to encourage and make someone feel like a million bucks - because he spoke their language and talked about them.
The apostle Paul had learned the importance of knowing what matters to people as well. He writes,
I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (1st Corinthians 9:22)
Paul knew that he had to discover what mattered to people so that he could save some by introducing them to Jesus.
So here’s my encouragement to you today… Stop talking about yourself and start talking about what matters to other people. Ask them about their kids. Ask them how they met their spouse. Find out what their hobbies are. When someone starts telling you a whole bunch of information about bird-watching, you’ll know you’re making progress. Just talk to them about them… Be like my friend Kevin and always look for ways to navigate the conversation back to them.
Because if you take interest in them enough times, eventually, you’ll be able to navigate the conversation to Jesus.
If you’ve known me for anytime at all, you know that I’m huge fan of the Andy Griffith Show. In fact, I named my son Griffith in honor of the show. Everyday after school I used to come home, make a bowl of Ramen Noodles, open a bag of Doritos, and head to Mayberry for the afternoon. I love everything about the show! But the show would not be what it is without the bumbling deputy, Barney Fife.
On more than one occasion, Andy and Barney are featured in newspaper articles where they captured some criminals. And almost every time they make the headlines, somebody gets Barney’s name wrong. Bernie Fife. Barney Fike. Bernard Fise. As kind as Barney is, he always wants to be known and recognized. He wants people to know his name and get his name right. In fact, whenever Barney reads these misprints, he often boils with rage and always calls the newspaper to let them know their mistake.
Barney wants his name said… And chances are, you do too. A name communicates that we have value. It communicates that we belong and that we have an identity. Why do you think parents take such care in picking out a name when their baby is born? Because names are important.
However, as we get older, it seems like we put less and less emphasis on names. We say things like, “Hey you!”, or “Hey fella.” And these generic greetings don’t communicate value and honor - they communicate obscurity. Many of us are okay with saying, “I’m not good with names.”
But what if that’s a major reason we aren’t reaching as many people for Jesus as we’d like? If names communicate honor and value, don’t you think it’s the least we could do to begin building a relationship with someone in hopes that they come to know Jesus? In fact, Jesus was one for using names:
When we use someone’s name, it’s a way to make things personal because it communicates value and honor. It may seem like a small thing, but it has a big impact! Everyone likes to hear their name said.
So if you want to get better at names, here’s some practical steps you can take:
1. When you first learn the name, say the name out loud. “My name is Peter… Hi PETER, nice to meet you.” Repetition will help with the learning process.
2. Utilize your notes app… I often keep a name note where I write down people’s name to study later.
3. Pray for the name… Right after meeting someone, say a quick prayer for them.
4. Utilize a mnemonic device. If you watch the Office, Michael Scott might be of some help to you with this one :)
5. Discover the story behind the name. Everyone has a story. And if you ask the right questions you can learn who that person is, not just their name.
Names communicate value and honor. And if you want to get personal with others, it starts by learning their name. It’s a simple practice, but it creates a big impact!
If you want to learn more about learning names and why it’s important check out the book It’s Personal. If you have your own tricks for learning names, we’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Four years ago my wife and I stayed up way past our bedtime because we couldn’t stop watching the results of the election. I remember vividly saying late into the night, “Oh my goodness… He’s gonna do it.” I was as shocked as everyone else when President Trump won. I remember seeing the tweets and the posts from friends who were convinced the world was now over. To be fair, some of my other friends would have responded the same way had Hilary Clinton won. But, four years later we are still here. And I believe we would still be here if she had won as well. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not Donald Trump, Joe Biden, or Hilary Clinton who is writing the story of history. Jesus is.
And that’s easy to forget. As followers of Jesus we live in this tension that can often be hard to navigate. We have our beliefs and convictions that we feel strongly about but, there’s always that one candidate who seems to be the antithesis of those convictions. If Trump wins, we are doomed. If Biden wins we are doomed. But we easily forget that whoever wins has a term limit. But Jesus doesn’t.
I love what Dr. Derwin Gray tweeted the other day:
The November 3 election is important. But the most important Election took place in eternity past when God the Father elected Jesus to be the world's Redeemer and Savior.
Friends, the real election has already been won. Jesus, through His victory on the cross and His victory over death and the grave has already declared the winner… And it’s Him. No politician or government philosophy will provide true joy and salvation. No man made ideals or systems can save you and provide what you’re searching for. Only Jesus does that.
So, as you wait in the long lines at the polls today, remember this: No matter what happens, Jesus has already won. If Trump wins, you’re gonna be okay. If Biden wins, you’re gonna be okay.
The church of Jesus Christ has not pressed on through tyrannical rule, pandemics, dispersions, and persecution for 2000+ years to be defeated now. No, the hope of the Gospel will continue to permeate, saturate, and inundate our hearts if we remember to place our trust in the victory of Jesus. Listen to Jesus’ victory speech given through the pen of the Apostle Paul:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who GIVES US THE VICTORY through our LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Paul knew that not even the power of death can keep us from the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus. So, when you panic because your candidate loses today… Remember that this is simply a blip in eternity and that you’ve already won if you are in Christ. And when you frame your life around the victory of Jesus, you can carry on with life. You can love, serve, and even build relationships with people you disagree with. You can speak joy in a world of despair. You can be love in a world of hate. You can give hope in a world of doom. In fact, that was Paul’s encouragement to us immediately following the description of death’s death. He writes,
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
So, go do your civic duty and vote for the man you’ve prayed for and believe will be the best representation of the Kingdom of God, but do so knowing that the ultimate victory has already been won. And Jesus is the Victor.