Monday, April 9, 2012

Potato Chip Christians

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 4.14.12

“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? 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.”[2]

When was the last time you heard someone refer to his or her contact with a Christian in any of those terms?

One pastor 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. This pastor opens a bag of potato chips and then steps out into the congregation.  This is how he describes the object lesson:
“Turn to one person: ‘Want one? Help yourself!’“Then say: ‘I've learned that one of the simplest acts of grace in meeting someone is to simply be interested in them. Just ask them a question about something they care about in life. It's like turning to them with a bag of chips and saying, “Want one?”’“As you offer chips to more people in the audience, ask questions to serve as examples of what you mean: ‘Is that a good book you're reading? Want one?’ ‘What's it like to deal with people in your job? Want one?’ ‘Did you grow up around here? Want one?’“As you prepare to offer a chip to another person in the audience, say, ‘Or perhaps you can find a way to ask gently or discretely about deeper heart issues.’ Offer an example of what you mean: ‘How do you keep your balance with all this turmoil in your life? Want one?’“As you prepare to offer a chip to another person in the audience, say, ‘You know, there's a wonderful verse in the Bible that might encourage you. Want one?’ To another person: ‘Let me tell you a story about a Father whose son broke his heart. Want one?’ To another person: ‘You know what? I'm going to be praying for you. Want one?’“Then, return to the pulpit and offer a conclusion to the illustration: ‘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.’”[3]
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, caused that person to want to know more about Jesus? Or has our contact caused 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.

Now, I know that 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?
“Watchman Nee tells about a Chinese Christian who owned a rice paddy next to one owned by a communist man. The Christian irrigated his paddy by pumping water out of a canal, using one of those leg-operated pumps that make the user appear to be seated on a bicycle. Every day, after the Christian had pumped enough water to fill his field, the communist would come out, remove some boards that kept the water in the Christian's field and let all the water flow down into his own field. That way, he didn't have to pump.This continued day after day. Finally, the Christian prayed, ‘Lord, if this keeps up, I'm going to lose all my rice, maybe even my field. I've got a family to care for. What can I do?’ In answer to his request, the Lord put a thought in his mind. So, the next morning he arose much earlier, in the predawn hours of darkness, and started pumping water into the field of his communist neighbor. Then he replaced the boards and pumped water into his own rice paddy. In a few weeks both fields of rice were doing well—and the communist was converted.”[4]
So, let’s decide, today, to be potato chip Christians! Always leave folks wanting to know more about Jesus.

[1] E.G. White, That I May Know Him,” p. 218
[2] winsome. (n.d.). Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition. Retrieved April 06, 2012, from website:
[3] Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois
[4] Making Things Right When Things Go Wrong (Howard, 1996)

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