PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE
I am a "locker member" at our local cigar shop. Inside the members room are bays of wooden, Spanish Cedar lined, humidified lockers where members can store their cigars. When I first got a locker and was introduced to the fellas there was a bit of uneasiness among some of the regulars. One man, now a good friend, recently told me that when "the pastor" showed up they feared I would bring a sermon to every conversation. And they didn't only have me to worry about. After I joined 8 other members from our church joined as well. But this long-time regular at the cigar shop told me he was pleasantly surprised that we came in to join them. Yes, we openly talk about God, the gospel, the church, and the Bible, but we also talk about the Blackhawks, movies, family, politics, and of course, cigars. He knows my hopes that everyone there will believe in and follow Jesus, but he also knows we are there to be a part of something. The cigar shop is not a project, but a place. The members there are our friends.
Part Two: Make Friends Not Projects
This is the second thing God has brought to my mind over my time at the cigar shop. I need to make friends, not projects. Treating people like a project, an individual to convert, can create distance between you and the person you want to reach with the gospel. It puts a utilitarian emphasis on the relationship where there is only one goal. That goal is good, but there should be more.
A Christian will always have an agenda (actually, more than one) in every relationship. In my friendship with non-Christians I desire to and work toward sharing the gospel, seeing them come to faith in Christ, and join a healthy church. But I also desire to love them as a neighbor and be a good friend. My ultimate agenda is any relationship is to reflect the glory of the God and his gospel. To this end I work at making friends in my city.
Of course a Christian friend will tell others about Jesus, invite them to church, and pray with and for them. We do this at the cigar shop. We are known as the Christians, the church guys. Some of the members playfully call the members room "the rectory" when a few of us are in there. They know us and what we are all about. We know them. And we are friends--real friends. And that is a win, because friendship allows us to freely love our neighbors in word and deed, with the gospel and good works, with conversation and, hopefully, conversions!
In the next post I'll share some thoughts on the art of conversation in third places.