Home Bible Study Insights: Turning a Stranger Into a Friend
It starts so simply-a smile, a nod, a spoken word. Turning a stranger into a friend is not a mysterious science. The Bible gives us the first step toward making a friend: “A man that bath friends must skew himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). This verse makes it clear that we are to take the initiative.
Turning a stranger into a friend starts with being people conscious rather than self conscious. I call it the gift of awareness. It is being aware of the people around you not merely as pawns to help you accomplish your daily tasks, but as potential contacts you can witness to. When you have the gift of awareness, you see people as souls Jesus died for rather than as anonymous faces in the crowd.
1. Smile at people.
You usually get one back.
2. Choose to be happy and upbeat.
Positive people are attractive magnets. Negativity will keep people away. To be positive and happy is a daily choice you make, despite your circumstances. You should show enough joy to make others curious about the source of your joy-even when you don’t always feel it.
3. Be real.
Fakes are easily spotted and seldom appreciated.
4. Look for opportunities to start a conversation.
Offer a sincere compliment, notice a kind deed, or ask someone, “How are you doing today?” Then listen; don’t keep walking. Their response should determine the depth of your reply to them.
5. Brag on Jesus.
Instead of saying, “What a gorgeous day we’re having,” say, “What a gorgeous day God has given to us!” When we lift Jesus up His Word promises, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).
If we do the praising, God will do the drawing. Most of the people we meet have not heard the name of Jesus glorified, only taken in vain. People are interested in knowing about a God that you are bragging about. This will pique their interest and may lead to some exciting conversations.
Best of all, something wonderful happens when we begin to focus our attention on others. Somehow our world is brighter and our own problems are less troublesome. When we begin doing His work, He takes care of our work and worries.
Taking It a Step Further
1. Be sensitive and listen for God’s promptings.
Do not override God’s promptings even when they may seem silly. God knows what will touch the heart of the person.
I remember one Mother’s Day when the Lord prompted me to take a white rose to the home of a lady who had visited our church a few weeks before.
I began negotiating with God; “I don’t know her. She’ll think I’m silly. What is so special about a white rose, anyway? It’s Mother’s Day afternoon, and there’s probably not a single rose left in this city. God, are you sure about this?”
The feeling would not leave me, so I started searching for a white rose. An hour later, with rose in hand, I sat in my car outside her house. “Okay God, now what?” I asked.
He impressed upon me that she was grieving that day for a teenage son she had lost in death. Then He gave me the words to write a special note assuring her that He saw her pain and wanted to comfort her. The white rose would let her know that He remembered her loss and grief. She had not been forgotten.
That day started a beautiful, lasting friendship and opened the doors to share God with her in ways she had never known. I learned something too-to listen, despite the oddness of God’s requests.
2. Learn the difference between God’s voice, your voice, and the enemy’s voice.
Sometimes we will hear things or feel impressed to do something but we are not sure of the source. Seasoned Christians have given us this simple formula that will help us to identify the right voice.
a. The first voice you hear is God providing direction.
Example: “Go pray with the young mother in the hospital waiting room:’
b. The second voice you hear is the enemy bringing doubt.
Example: “She’s not open to receive your prayer:’
c. The last voice is you reasoning with the first voice.
Example: “She doesn’t know me. I don’t want to scare her. This is a public place. Isn’t there someone else more qualified to pray with her?”
3. Obey God and trust Him with the results.
We miss many opportunities to witness and minister to others because we do not discern the voice of God. The enemy would never tell you to go witness to someone, brighten their day with flowers, or help them change a flat tire. Your own flesh is usually too timid to think this up.
Only God would prompt and instruct you to be His mouth, His hands, and His feet in your day-to-day contact with others. As soul winners, we must pray for the mind of Christ and then act in obedience. Let Him worry about the results.
After you have made initial contacts with people, here are strategies that will strengthen your chances of influencing them.
1. Start a pattern of seeing the same people consistently.
We often find comfort in our routines and can use them to our advantage. Soul winners put their patterns to work for them.
Even if you have never spoken to someone other than offering a brief thanks, the familiarity of a shared routine can provide an opening for conversation.
a. Take advantage of the places you frequent. Here are a few of mine: cleaners, bank, daycare, coffee cafe, grocery, shoe repair, kid’s boutique, pharmacy, and gas station.
b. Instead of going to three different cleaners, gas stations, or pharmacies, choose one and cultivate relationships there. These people are already a part of your life. This is familiar ground that will be easy to work.
c. Get to know the people that work there. Find out their work schedules and do your business while they are on duty.
d. Talk to them. Show an interest in their lives. Listen.
2. Keep a journal.
Write down their names and any important information you want to remember about them. Jot down things to talk about or to ask about the next time you see them.
During one of our typical late-night trips to Walmart, as my husband and I stood in line ready to pay for our groceries, I realized I had forgotten to get milk. In his sweet way, my husband offered to go get it. Embarrassed, I declined his offer and scampered off to the freezing-cold dairy section.
While I got the milk, our cashier, Lisa, said, “It’s been a while since I saw a husband be so sweet and attentive to his wife. You two seem very much in love. She is your wife, right?” My husband chuckled, and said, “Yes, she is my wife and we are in love.”
Then Lisa said, “You all have got to be Christians, right?” When I returned, my husband was telling her that we were doing our best to be Christians.
I chimed in and told her we also pastored a church in the area. Then I asked Lisa if she attended a church. Lisa answered, “Yes, but my pastor is in bad shape. He has a brain aneurysm and is not expected to live. Please help us pray for him:’
We got his name, promised to pray for him, and told Lisa to have a blessed night.
Back in the car, I wrote down her name, the pastor’s name, and the hours it appeared that she worked.
On my next late night trip to Walmart, I looked for Lisa’s lane. She was there. “Hi, Lisa. How are you tonight?” I asked. “We’ve been praying for your pastor. How is he progressing?”
While scanning my groceries, Lisa shared the latest update on her pastor and then told me some of her challenges as a single mother. I listened and made mental notes to write down later in my journal.
Lisa needed a friend and someone to bring her needs before God. As a single mom, she needed someone to agree with her in prayer about these needs. I volunteered to be the “other half of the two” recorded in Matthew:
Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18:19)
After several late night trips through Lisa’s lane and a few answered prayers, Lisa accepted my invitation to church.
Our Walmart was a super-duper one with about thirty-eight checkout lanes. I never knew why. The only time they were even half staffed was the week before Christmas.
One night during the wee hours, I walked into Walmart. (There was no one else there at that insane time, so I planned to shop quickly.) After about ten steps I heard someone yell out, “Sis. Sciscoe, over here!” You guessed it-Lisa. I ducked, just knowing people were looking around for the nun.
Lisa wanted to make sure I didn’t miss her, since she was working at the opposite end of the store. I smiled, happy to be wanted.
3. Develop a good rapport so the potential friends will anticipate seeing you.
We want to be a breath of fresh air to the people and places we visit. We want people to look forward to seeing us.
I pray that people will never see me approaching, and say, “Oh no, there’s Mrs. Sciscoe. We can never get her clothes cleaned just right.” Or, “She’s a terrible tipper. I hope she doesn’t sit at one of my tables.”
Remember, we are representing Jesus. There is no such thing as a sour, negative Christian. Accurately defined, to be a Christian is to be Christ-like. (By the way-be a good tipper! Don’t leave a cheap tip and then invite the waitress or waiter to church.)
The fact that Jesus always drew a crowd is a good indication that He was a delight to be around. People wanted to get to know Him. They wanted what He had. The same should be said of us.
4. Do what you say you will do.
The old saying is true: “You’re only as good as your word.” When developing relationships with people-and especially to keep healthy relationships alive-it is imperative that you keep your word.
Solomon said, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1). If you lose riches, you can regain them, but once you lose your reputation, it is nearly impossible to regain. Your word is your credibility in all relationships.
If you meet a person and say you will pray about something, do it. If you doubt your memory or schedule, spend three or four minutes when you first get back into your car to give that issue your undivided attention. Talk to God about it immediately. Then, when you meet that person again, you can say with true honesty and conviction that you prayed.
It is best to make their request a daily petition before God. It allows you more opportunities to hear back from Him about the subject. Then you are more appropriately prepared to be an encouragement to them.
If you say you will meet a new friend for lunch at two o’clock, be there on time. If you tell them to call, day or night, then answer the phone with sensitivity and care. If you promise to keep a secret, keep it. Trust is earned. When you keep your word, it builds trust and confidence. These traits are the beginning elements required to turn a stranger into a friend.
The above article, “Home Bible Study Insights: Turning a Stranger into a Friend,” is written by Kimberly Sciscoe. The article was excerpted from Sciscoes’ “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Soul Winning: Connecting People to God Everywhere You Go.” The material was published in 2007.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.