I believe one of the greatest things about Jesus was his ability to walk up to a group and engage them in conversation. The context didn’t matter; He could engage the most learned men of His day or the woman at the well. Jesus knew the art of engaging.
As a missionary, the ability to engage is paramount to sharing the Gospel. If you ever came on one of our mission trips, you would take a class on “The Art of Engaging.”
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to engage an elderly couple. My wife asked me to stop by our favorite barbecue place after I finished my workout and pick up some chopped beef.
As I was pulling into the spot reserved for takeouts, an elderly couple came shuffling out of the restaurant. I could tell by their gait that walking was difficult for them.
As they moved in front of my parking place, the man stopped, reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of mints. The lady took one just as I stepped out of my truck.
I called to her, “Ma’am, do you know this man?” “Yes,” she replied.
“Good, you can’t be too careful these days. There are lots of men out there who are trying to lure a pretty woman like you.”
Her eyes sparkled as she laughed, “Yes, I know him, and he’s a little on the shady side.”
“I saw him trying to entice you with those mints, and I wanted to make sure you were all right,” I told her.
“Those are ill-gotten mints,” she said with a grin. He must have snuck a handful out of the jar on his way out.
I went on, “Sir, you ought to count your blessings for having such a beautiful lady who will go out and have dinner with you.”
I walked them to their car and chatted for a few more minutes before wishing them a blessed day. As I headed toward the restaurant, I glanced back one more time and saw them leaning over to kiss. Good thing they both had a mint.
Engaging people with a purpose can make a difference. I knew when I saw this couple that life had taken its toll on them. Age had caught up with what was once a beautiful, vibrant woman and a man who at one time could probably level mountains and wrestle bears, leaving them with only memories of these former glories.
I wanted to give them a moment of feeling the way they used to. When I spoke to the woman, I could see her eyes sparkle, and for a brief time, she was that pretty lady once more. When he acknowledged that his wife was a keeper, he felt like a mighty man again. Those moments of engagement can turn into days of smiles.
Since most of you won’t attend my class, let me give you a quick summary of how to E.N.G.A.G.E.:
1. Enthusiasm: When you approach someone, you should have a spirit of enthusiasm. People will respond to you when you’re excited about something. You can say, “IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY!” or “It is a beautiful day.” I guarantee: one of these will get a better response.
2. Near: When you engage, you need to be close enough to reach out and touch someone. The farther away you are, the more you’re saying, “I really don’t care.” Closeness allows openness.
3. Gracious: A spirit of graciousness is essential when you engage. Graciousness forms the bridge between you and the other person during your conversation. Jesus was gracious when he sat with the woman at the well, and look what happened.
4. Acquire Others: I always try to engage more than one person at a time. I not only talked to the woman, but to her husband, too. The more people I can engage, the greater the chance of creating a relationship.
5. Go Deeper: If the Lord opens the door and allows you to go deeper by having a spiritual conversation, by all means do so. Watch for cracks in which you can insert the Gospel.
6. Encourage: No matter what the circumstance, I always leave a word of encouragement. Engaging others has a side effect, and I don’t mean the kind listed by the drug companies. The side effect of engaging others is joy. Engaging puts a smile in your heart, knowing that God used you to make a difference by speaking a word of kindness, encouragement or even worth and value into another person’s life.
This week, I have a homework assignment for you. Ask God to give you an opportunity to ENGAGE. And let me know what happens when you do.