“The heart must receive the divine current, and let it flow out in rich streams of mercy and grace to other hearts. All who would win souls to Christ must be winsome.”1
“Winsome,” that’s an old fashioned word, isn’t it?2
It’s certainly not one we use very often. Here are some synonyms for the word,
“‘winsome:’ absorbing, alluring, appealing, attractive, captivating, charismatic, delightful, desirable, enamoring, engaging, enthralling, fascinating, inviting, irresistible, lovable, pleasant, pleasing, sweet, tantalizing, winning.”3
When was the last time you heard someone refer to his or her contact with a Christian in any of those terms?
Lee Eclov, a pastor in Lake Forest, Illinois, uses a bag of potato chips to illustrate an effective way to make contact with people so that they will begin to want to get to know Jesus better.
Eclov opens a bag of potato chips then steps out into the congregation. He turns to one person in the congregation and offers the bag. “Chip? Help yourself!” He explains that one of the easiest ways for any of us to show God’s grace to the people we meet is to show them that we’re personally interested in them.
As Eclov moves around the sanctuary, he offers chips to people in the congregation. As he offers chips, he asks questions:
“Is that a good book? Would you like a chip?”
“How are things going with your job? Want one?”
“Did you grow up around here? Chip?”
Once you’ve ‘shared a few chips’ with an individual, maybe you can begin to ask about less superficial things.
“You seem to have a lot going on in your life right now; how are you able to stay positive? Would you like another chip?”
“You look like you could use some encouragement. How can I help? Chip?”
“Let me tell you about a Father who has been waiting all your life to call you His child. Another chip?”
“I’m praying for you. Have a chip.”
When Eclov returns to the podium, he offers this conclusion:
“Grace-accented conversations give people more than they deserve or expect. They are conversations rich in love and sincere interest, in unexpected sympathy and empathy, in undeserved hope and forgiveness. They are conversations which, by the Holy Spirit’s miraculous help, touch something soul-deep—words that go where no one else has. Words like that are salty, tasty. They make a person want more. Though people may not realize it, you’re grace-accented words are giving them a thirst for Jesus.”4
Paul said something very similar in his letter to the Colossians.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6
Remember the old potato chip ad: “Nobody can eat just one?” How often in our everyday lives do we come in contact with a person who doesn’t have an active, positive relationship with God, and, through our interaction with him or her, cause that person to want to know more about Jesus? Or does our contact cause the opposite reaction – leaving him with less interest than before in getting to know Jesus better?
A long time ago I worked as a waitress in a Mexican food restaurant in San Antonio. The restaurant was close to several churches and so on Sundays, what we called the “church crowd” would fill up the restaurant for their Sunday dinner. Unfortunately, this was not a group that the other waiters and waitresses looked forward to, in fact, it was usually a focal point of dread and did little to increase anyone’s desire to become more involved in Christianity. So many people at one time, plus their desire to stay and chat made things difficult enough for waiters. But were lots situations that could have been handled with either ire or grace and for some reason, and these people who had just come from a Christian worship service seemed quite often to choose ire. When there was an opportunity to make the waiter’s job easier, they chose to make it more difficult. I wonder if the church crowd had known that this mostly unchurched wait staff was a field ready for planting if they would have behaved any differently. On a person-by-person basis, some of the Christian customers were very nice, but the overall impression left by the church crowd was overwhelmingly negative.
Isn’t that sad? Most of my fellow waiters and waitresses were not church goers and the church crowd didn’t inspire them to become more involved in any church. As a Christian myself, I was often embarrassed by the behavior of these fellow Christians.
I haven’t heard the phrase in the last couple of years, but there used to be this image of American tourists that some folks called the ugly American. Do you remember that? It was portrayed with absolute cringe inducing accuracy by Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Chevy Chase’s character in that movie left a bad taste for Americans, so that the next American that came along had a much more difficult time.
In the Christian world, the same thing can happen. If, in our dealings with people we are rude, abrasive, demanding, vindictive, or pushy, we are going to leave a bad taste for Christians after us. How can we show people how much Jesus loves them if they dread seeing us coming?
I love this story about these two rice farmers. One was a Christian and one was a communist. The Christian man irrigated his rice everyday by pedaling a bicycle type pump. After he had filled his rice field, the communist would come and let the water out of the Christian farmer’s field into his own so that he didn’t have to do any pedaling.
This happened everyday and the Christian’s rice was dying while the communist’s rice flourished. In desperation, the Christian asked God what he should do to save his field and livelihood.
God answered the Christian farmer’s prayer by giving him a plan. The Christian got up much, much early than before, before the sun came up. He pumped and pumped and pumped until he had filled not just his own field, but the communist farmer’s field as well. Pretty soon, both fields were healthy and both farmers were Christians.5
So, let’s all be be potato chip Christians! Always leave folks wanting to know more about Jesus.
- E.G. White, That I May Know Him,” p. 218 ↩
- Image © Providence Collection from GoodSalt.com ↩
- winsome. (n.d.). Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition. Retrieved April 06, 2012, from Thesaurus.com website: http://thesaurus.com/browse/winsome ↩
- Lee Eclov, pastor and PreachingToday.com & Christianity Today contributor, Vernon Hills, Illinois ↩
- Paul Faulkner, Making Things Right When Things Go Wrong: Ten Proven Ways to Put Your Life in Order (Howard, 1996) ↩