‘No, thank you.’
Amazing how quickly the offer of free things can be met with refusal; albeit very British refusal.
The clocks changed last weekend, so contrary to the usual caffeine fix, we hit the streets of Manchester with hot chocolate sachets with an accompanying reminder not to get up too early.
We met, prayed, buttoned up and off we went. Five people in a big city.
It was the weekend of Halloween so the feel of the Arndale area was festive with some very engaging characters to interact with. After splitting into teams, off we went and gave out our wares. We got some smiles, some ‘no, thank yous’ and had a few brief chats.
It was a nice feeling – a good start, I thought. Nothing spectacular happened but that’s okay, right? With empty bags, we turned our heads for home.
That is until one of us asked the rest if we’d be up for inviting people to church.
I’ve reached a place where I’m perfectly fine to invite people I know to things – church, events etc. But for some reason asking someone on the street who I have no deeper connection with to come and be part of something is hard. And frustratingly I have no logical reason for why it should be so! If they say no, they say no; we pray they come to meet Jesus some other way. I, most likely, will not see them again. If they say yes, wonderful!
Why then is finding those opening words so hard?
After wondering around akwardly for several minutes, one guy did catch my eye. He was probably in his 60s with a fairly severe limp. In that moment, offering to pray for his leg seemed much easier than inviting him to church. After a lovely chat he declined prayer, but did take a flyer about church. So we ended up inviting him anyway. Funny.
On the walk back, I wondered for a long way whether it was the word ‘church’ I was struggling with. I completely love church, but I know how wonderful it truly is. If only the love I associate with that word was everyone’s immediate thought, starting these conversations might be easier. But then, I suppose, there would be very little need for them.
I was afraid my poor articulation of exactly what I was inviting people to would create a barrier. I do, however, feel ready to try again. Luckily there are many in our group to whom these things come much more naturally, but that won’t stop me trying to do it too.
Because, ultimately, the free thing we’re offering goes beyond hot chocolate, a smile or even friendship. It’s the knowledge of how utterly and completely loved we are by the King of Kings. Just like one of the business canvassers told us: ‘That’s much better than what I’m offering.’