This is a guest post from my good friend, Chad Schuitema. A couple of years ago, Chad began intentionally building relationships with people who he crossed paths with on a regular basis, but who he otherwise ignored. Rather than ignoring them he began to get to know them. I am challenged by Chad’s intentional relationship building, and I hope you are as well. You can follow Chad on Twitter or check out his blog here.
A guy I know has an incredibly powerful testimony of how Jesus saved his life. For most people, this would be enough, but his testimony of what Jesus has done through him for broken and hurting people in the church may be even more powerful. What’s more, he’s honestly one of the most humble people I know.
This post is in no way meant to demean him.
But here’s the thing: outside his church, he’s a horrible witness for Christ.
I spend a good amount of time at a local Starbucks. I like Starbucks coffee andI love the people there. I started going there when I was pastoring a church as a way of forcing myself to sit quietly early in the more and spend some time devotionally reading the Bible and praying. It was so much easier to just go to my office, start responding to emails and get caught up in the busyness of the job. So Starbucks was great for me to get into a good habit.
But it turned into so much more than that.
I started to know the people working there and to be known by them. I really care about them and love them. They’re my friends. We’re not best buddies to the point of hanging out a ton, but it’s more than just being friendly. I’ve done this because I’m convinced Jesus wants us to love people – especially the people where we spend much of our time. It’s easy to say we love the people in our church, but what about the rest of the world? What about our actual neighbors?
One day I went to a Starbucks on a different side of town and there was the guy I was telling you about – the guy with the great testimony. He knows me and shook my hand and asked about my church with a warm smile on his face. After a little conversation he went and sat down and I saw him doing the same thing I did: read the Bible and pray. But I noticed when he got up for a refill he barely spoke more than a grunt to the barista. I thought maybe he was having a bad day.
A while later I was at my Starbucks sitting in the corner and this same guy walks in. He doesn’t see me this time though, but I watch him. He speaks minimally to the barista only enough to order his tall Pike Place. He goes into the corner and reads and prays and gets up a little while later and leaves. Since then, I’ve seen him do this multiple times.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Starbucks and other restaurants writing, reading, and eating. And I’ve become painfully aware as I’ve listened and people-watched at how horrible people treat baristas, waiters, and others whose job it is to serve food. Have you ever noticed this? Is it a superiority thing? A too busy thing? An I don’t care thing?
I’ve been told by my friends at Starbucks that the day they hate working most is Sunday because of the Christians who come in and leave them condemning notes about them going to hell because they are, among a whole host of other sins, working on Sunday! Who would serve them their coffee? I almost didn’t believe it, but sadly I saw one of these notes.
What is wrong with us when we aren’t even friendly to people we are called to love?
I used to start my Sunday by getting a venti americano at the crack of dawn on my way to prepare for worship. It was one of my favorite things to do because the same two people worked every Sunday and I always looked at it as a reminder to me of the real world – the world outside the church. And if I’m honest, I often looked forward to going to Starbucks and having a real conversation for 15 minutes more so than I did going to church. But for others, they stop in after church where they’ve sung songs about grace and heard the message of love your neighbor and five minutes later are in full-on judgement mode about piercings, tattoos, and hair color.
I’m not better than anyone else. I don’t write this to say, “Look at me, I’m such a friendly guy!” It’s the opposite. I’m not doing anything great, I’m just trying to have good relationships with people and love them. I don’t have an ulterior motive; you don’t have to be like me.
But what I am wondering is that if you are a Christian and you don’t know the people in the places you frequent or aren’t in relationship with them or your neighbors, what does that say? What does it say about what you believe about love and the commands of Jesus?
Do you know people at the gym, or do you avoid eye contact and try and get out of there as fast as possible?
When you go through a checkout line, do you ooze impatience and frustration or is there an actual person in front of you that is made in the image of God?
Are you trying to escape this world we live in or are you trying to be the best witness for Christ you can be in the places where you go?
Is that just a servant getting you your refill, or is there someone on the other side of that counter who may just need someone to sincerely ask how they are doing today?
Or are you letting them know you don’t want to be bothered?
Because in the end, what you do says a lot more than what you say.