Turning strangers into friends
By Neil Smith, founder, Olympic Peninsula Ministries, Sequim, WA; and former pastor at Dungeness Community Church, Sequim, and Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto, CA
Neil Smith applies principles from Bill Hybels’ excellent book, Just walk across the room, with an introduction by Gary Williams:
We’ve all met men and women who obviously enjoy making friends of strangers. They walk into a room smiling and after we’ve met them we can’t help but smile, too. They look us in the eye, give us their undivided attention, ask questions about us and, in general, leave us feeling good about them and ourselves.
I had occasion to meet several such people when I drove my sports car south down Interstate-5 to join up with a group from the Alfa Romeo Club of Oregon. By myself and feeling out of place, I parked in a row of other Alfas, got out, and was immediately approached by a man who introduced himself. Then others walked up and introduced themselves. Soon I felt at ease and grateful to be making friends so quickly in the Pacific Northwest, where this Californian was a relative newcomer. The tour was so much fun, in fact, that I was eager to participate in the next one.
Making friends is not always that easy, as we all know. Some of us find it difficult to walk up to a stranger and say hello. Some of us don’t feel the need to make new friends; we think we already have enough. Some of us are so busy that making a stranger feel at ease doesn’t even hit the radar screen.
But those of us who claim to be Christian, who claim to follow Christ, know that God himself is a relational being. He created all of us to be in relationship with him and with one another. If we can’t find the time or inclination to be friendly with one another, can we really hope to carry out what Jesus said are the two greatest commands, the two that embody all the others: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself? How can we love someone we don’t even know? We can’t; it’s not possible.
Meeting new people and making them feel welcome is almost a lost art and friendships are a real gift these days. I mean, of course, friendships that go beyond the surface level of “friending” someone on Facebook or shaking the hand of the person who sits next to you in church, someone you don’t actually talk to or even remember by the time the service ends.
If you consider yourself a Christ follower, especially if you’re employed by or active in a church, I encourage you to read this talk on the benefits of turning strangers into friends. As noted in the headline, Neil Smith based his presentation on Bill Hybels’ book entitled, “Just Walk Across The Room.” Please, don’t tell yourself you’ll read this when you have time. Take 15 minutes and do it now. You’ll be glad you did.