Our place in the world


My wife is an expert at opening people up. We should all take notes. Her most recent example came last night when we were out to dinner. It wasn’t exactly a Johnny’s Cafe-type diner, but Marti has a way of turning any place into the friendly atmosphere of a Johnny’s Cafe just by how she talks to people.

We had been to this restaurant a couple of months ago and got the same waitress and she remembered us, so that was a start. But I wish you could see Marti in action. Her years as a flight attendant I’m sure contributed to this skill, as she would take on everybody on the plane as a potential conversation and possible relationship. This particular server was outgoing with a delightful sense of humor, so Marti went right for her with questions like, “How come you have such a great sense of humor? Does that come from your family?” The woman immediately lit up and started talking to us about her parents, and especially her father, with whom she had shared many memorable trips to concerts or overnight events that you normally wouldn’t think a parent would be involved in. She spoke of these things glowingly and how proud she was of her Dad, who, whether he’d liked it or not didn’t matter; it was what his daughter wanted to do, and so he wanted to share that experience with her.

There was definitely something there for me in my relationship with Chandler. He may be 18, but he’s still at home, and we still can do things together that mean something to him, and make memories like this woman and her father. Suddenly, by just a few questions, an enthusiastic and genuine interest from my wife, and an open mind, we had a real give-and-take relationship going. We were able to affirm her personality and her family, and she gave me something without even knowing it.

The goal of every encounter at Johnny’s Cafe — indeed every encounter anywhere — is a relationship, and relationships come out of shared experiences. Two things Marti employed here in this example were 1) probing questions that insist on more than a yes or no answer, and 2) a genuine interest. The latter comes from listening carefully and formulating questions based on what you have already gathered from earlier answers.

Our place in the world as marketplace Christians is all about relationships. And relationships are not a means to an end. You don’t have a relationship so you can talk about Jesus; you talk about Jesus, if it’s appropriate, because you have a relationship. Out of meaningful relationships can come communication about spiritual things and an opportunity to share your faith with someone, but that part is up to the Lord. The relationship is what we’re after. God does the rest.

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4 Responses to Our place in the world

  1. Greg Stein says:

    John, first let me say that while I have not been able to financially support The Catch I do offer my prayers and am planning on beginning a small monthly donation. Your lessons echo ones I have used often in sermons and conversations. This one is interesting since it is the foundation of training I do with every person I have employed at various ventures for many years. I use an acronym: AOPPC and it is based on the knowledge that individual relevance is the one thing we all crave and relationship is the best way to gain that.

    Acknowledge: every person wants to know that they are recognized. Whether it’s eye contact, a smile, a quick “be right with you!,” or a wink and nod (being careful to not be creepy about it) it is critical that every person in my business acknowledge every guest.

    Open: I own a restaurant/bar on St. John, USVI (or did until two Cat 5 hurricanes took us down last year – we will rise again) and I always taught our staff to never ask guests if they wanted something to eat or drink. Really? They walk into a restaurant/bar and they want to do something other than eat or drink? That’s a lazy way out. Notice something about them – a hat or shirt, their sunglasses, maybe their “Irish tan” (some might call it sunburn). Ask them about that,ask them about them.

    Probe: Always ask people about what they want, what they are looking for. If they ask for our lightest beer offer them a sample of a couple and let them choose. They sell themselves, love you for taking an interest in making their visit special and you get to know a little bit more about that person. People love to talk about themselves, I know I do.

    Present: Flourish, presentation, plating (in restaurant terms) make things special. How you present something to someone also indicates how you feel about them. Are they important enough to you to take a second or two to make sure it’s right for them? Or do you drop a basket in front of them and rush off to your next table/guest?

    Celebrate: Your guest has made a choice and since it is at your place it’s special and important to you. Let them realize that. Celebrate with them and for both of you. A quick word about their great choice, how it’s one of your personal favorites seals the relationship. We would always offer guests a free bottle of cheap bubbly when they told us they were on their honeymoon, or an anniversary trip or it was their birthday. It’s amazing how far a $5 bottle of Andre or Cook’s will take you! Plus we usually were able to join them in celebrating their life.

    Our restaurant was only open 4 1/2 months prior to the hurricanes, but I know we left a lasting impression. I also know that our guests made a lasting impression on us. Relationships are the positive result of the investment of a little bit of time, true curiosity and compassion in another person.

    Thanks for all you do!


  2. Mark says:

    Another great read – love gorgeous Marti! ❤

  3. Kirk says:

    I think we all need to be more ‘curious’. When we are curious, we ask good questions, show we care, demonstrate we are interested and focus externally.

  4. Sandie says:

    What a concept…talking to someone because you really want to know about THEM, not because they present a potential ‘lost soul I HAVE to win for the Lord.’ I still cringe remembering how I was as a young believer “shoving the dove,” and how much of a failure I felt when I couldn’t apply enough spiritual (unfortunately the wrong spirit) pressure for them to pray the sinner’s prayer. I’ve said this before – I think some people prayed that prayer just so I would shut up and go away! I was caught in a numbers game (“how many people did you witness to; how many were saved?”); led by well-meaning believers who were oh so wrong.
    Thank God I finally realized that I didn’t save anybody; that was the Holy Spirit’s job. What a relief (tinged with some sadness) to accept that I would probably not be the one to help someone take the final step to salvation – that I was only responsible for what was in front of me…as Paul said, some prepare the ground, some sow, some water, some reap the harvest (my paraphrase). However it transpires, it’s God’s business, not mine.
    Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatsoever your hands find to do…”

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