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.