After preaching at a country church, a friend of mine discovered that his honorarium would prove more fruitful than financial, when people began sharing their garden produce.
His enjoyment of lemons was rapidly heading south after his third bagful; but then a beaming lady asked him: “Do you like fish?”
“Oh yes, he replied expectantly, “I love fish.”
“Well,” she said, placing a bag in his hands and turning to walk away, “these lemons will be great with whatever fish you like!”
Questions burrow further into our minds than arguments, which is why therapists use them to help clients to break unhealthy thought patterns and attitudes. And while “good cop – bad cop” interrogation routines in crime or suspense movies are often clichés, it’s still entertaining to see them unravel guilty parties’ fabrications.
“Can I help you?” is a common opening question from sales staff, but a warmer approach like: “Have you found what you’re looking for?” followed by: “Can I help you find it?” will encourage more sales.
Any time we hear: “Do you want fries with that?” we are being treated to an add-on sale approach that’s designed to make us feel mean if we decline.
Another friend in car sales tells me that whenever he asks a customer a question to seal a deal, he bites his tongue. “I’ve found that whoever speaks first after a clincher question will lose out – even if it’s me trying
to clarify the question!”
Occasionally however, the deal may be beyond reach, as my brother recently found. He was waiting for his optometrist, when an extremely-dishevelled and pungent-smelling gentleman came up to the receptionist’s desk, showing her a pair of broken frames.
“I’m sorry sir,” she told him, “but these are beyond repair.”
He opened his other hand, revealing two broken lenses and looked her in the eye. “What about these?” he asked.
“Sir, I’m sorry, we can do nothing with these either. But we can arrange an eye test and a completely new pair for you.” Her smile was polite, but harder to maintain as he responded: “Would a proposal of marriage change your opinion?”
Laughter cascaded throughout the room as he turned and left.
However the truth behind the power of questions runs deeper than modern therapy, interrogation or sales methods – or even fanciful romance - for it comes straight from the bible.
As early evening’s cool, encroaching stillness silenced the birdcalls God’s first question echoed across a garden - “Where are you?”
God was seeking to continue his friendship with Adam and Eve, the couple he had created to be the stewards of this luxuriant, idyllic setting, but they were missing. He knew where they were, but they were hiding from him because of their shame. Yet his question extracted their confession and laid the foundation of a promise that took thousands of years to be fulfilled, when he could step into our world for a second time.
He’s still here, he knows where we are, but he still asks the question – so we may find ourselves.
This question has opened a new dimension for my witnessing, for it helps me to focus more on those I’m seeking to lead to Jesus than on my knowledge or my experience. It’s like the old sales truism “nobody cares how much I know unless they know how much I care.”
To understand where people are, is to respect them and however much time that they may need to fully respond to God’s love and truth. This means my taking time to see how God is revealing his love for them, and sharing with them what I see. I’ve found that this helps people to be more receptive than if I were a sin-focused witness “for the prosecution.”
If they are ready as well as receptive, it’s fun to help them to commit to Jesus. If they are not ready, I avoid pressing them, lest they become “green fruit” that is picked prematurely. For my pressure could make them hide from me; and possibly from God – just like Adam and Eve did.
While God’s question “Where are you?” is a simple one, it has many answers, because God respects everyone’s individuality; and he has many different ways for us to bring Jesus to their attention.
Author’s note: Personal witnessing is a real adventure for me, but I find too many of God’s people using pressured or borrowed techniques that cause the whole adventure to become very impersonal – and not a good advertisement for God’s love.
This approach works for me, for it opens up the flexibility of witnessing with people instead of witnessing to them...
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