(This starts a little slowly, but I promise it gets to the point.) Last winter, I was in the midst of a really nasty divorce, so I packed my bags and moved myself and my kids in with my parents to recuperate. The move wasn't THAT big a deal, since it was just up the driveway, but it gave me some peace of mind. Over the course of a month or so, however, quarters started getting a little tight at mom and dad's, so I knew the time had come to go back to IT – my house. But the thought of going back into the same house looking the same way it had before, well that was more than I could bear. Suddenly, the proverbial light bulb went off: I could sell the furniture. But how? Craigslist, of course. I had heard a lot about it. No time like the present to give it a try.
(Stay with me. I promise we are getting there.) So, I wrote up my ad, complete with the heading “Divorce Sale Extravaganza”, and started posting everything that wasn't nailed down. Over three weekends, I sold the entire contents of my 4 bedroom house AND refurnished it. All on Craigslist! But that isn't why I'm writing. The truth is that I learned a whole lot about what I HADN'T been doing to reach the lost from my time on the C-list. And THAT'S why I'm writing here.
First Things First: Being open wins people over.
Simply put, my divorce was an excrutiatingly public experience that brought me to depths of humiliation I had never previously fathomed. By the time I was blithely listing my furniture for sale, I figured I had nothing to lose by telling the three people in the entire county who hadn't heard about the whole thing. So, I put it right out there. “If you are wondering why I am offering this fabulous deal, it's because I'm in the middle of a divorce. My loss can literally be your gain.” What happened in return? People were really open with me. Suddenly, their guard was down. If this total stranger was throwing her life out there, what could they possibly have to lose? Mark and Lisa arrived to pick up my sofa and began to tell me that they were hoping to get married that weekend. Lisa had a two year old daughter, and Mark was stepping in to be a “dad.” Before they left, Lisa pulled me to the side and said, “I can tell you are one of those, oh you know, religious people. Can you pray for me? I want to build the right kind of home for my baby, but I don't know how.”
Second Helpings: Listen, and listen actively.
People are aching for an opportunity to open up. Tanya called me about a couple of bedroom sets. Mine were priced right. She had recently separated from her husband and was starting over from scratch. Could I hold them until the weekend? She and her dad arrived on Saturday morning, and while her Dad and mine took the beds apart and loaded the truck, she just looked like she had something to say, so I asked a few questions. And Tanya began to cry, revealing a story of being abandoned and betrayed. I shared a little of my story, and she looked at me stunned, “Your story is probably worse than mine. And you are standing here smiling at me, comforting ME. I ought to be comforting you. What's the secret? How can you SMILE?” It felt so much like a made-for-tv moment that I almost looked for cameras. Instead, I shared the gospel. Tanya is a hungry soul, and I'm determined to show her where real strength comes from – Christ.
Three Strikes and You're Out: My One Negative Experience.
One afternoon a young apostolic couple showed up to buy my monstrous dining room set. I was pretty excited when I saw them – people of like faith! I greeted them enthusiastically, asking where they were from and making a few “churchy” comments that we apostolics like to exchange. They shut me down pretty quickly. My elbows were showing (egads!), and since I was in the middle of a D-vorce, we were clearly not of like faith. Wasn't much to say but, “ok”. They took the table, but only after trying to get me to discount it into regions unheard of and convincing me that they were completely incapable of humor on any level. (Ever heard the phrase, “His face would crack if he smiled”? It would fit these two.) Lesson learned – Be aware of how you present yourself. If I ran into this couple, I definitely wouldn't want what they had. It looked more like a disease than the Holy Ghost.
Go Fourth: Washing Machines and Sharing the Good News.
Corinne called me at 10:18 pm on a Tuesday night. She started by apologizing profusely for calling so late, but she didn't want to chance missing out on the washer and dryer I had listed. See, her son was in desperate need and this looked like a good set they could afford. I said that the call wasn't any trouble and asked if she had any questions about the set. She didn't, but it turned out she needed to talk. She told me about the bad luck that seemed to follow her son around, about how he was starting over with his kids, and how she felt so inadequate to help him. Well, I saw an opening I couldn't resist. I shared my story, and how God was helping ME. With Him, it did get better and joy came again. Corinne started crying. Her grandma had that kind of faith, but she went to the crazy church where people swung from chandeliers and such. Most of the family thought Granny was a little crazy, but they knew to call her for prayer. I told Corinne that while no one has swung from our chandelier lately, I attend one of those “crazy” churches, and I'd be more than happy to pray for her family.
She showed up a few days later to pick up the washer and dryer, and with a bunch of questions about what her Granny used to tell her. I've got answers, and she asked for my number. I'm hoping that will be a Home Bible Study in the making.
Fifth Wheels – What's the point?
I've barely scratched the surface of my Craigslist encounters, but do you see the trend? It's simple – once I started reaching out, I found hungry people searching for answers. As apostolics, we have become so wound up in our culture that we have forgotten the words of the Great Commission.
It is, “Go ye, therefore . . .”, not “If you build it, they will come.”
We aren't going. We are passing out flyers. We aren't listening. We are talking about our “great services” where the “power of God moves.” Those words are fine, but someone who is lost has no idea what that means. If we are going to reach this world, we must be bold. We must be open. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. And we must go to where they are. Even if that is Craigslist . . . now, I must return to the storage shed. There's some more stuff out there that I think I can sell.