The PEARL: Part 3 – Ask
I’m a talker. If there’s another person in the room, chances are I’m the one talking. I have a good friend who is a listener. We do well together. However, my listening friend and I both struggle when it comes to engaging with our neighbors. My problem is talking too much, hers is not talking enough. So how are we to find the right balance?
Jesus has given us the Great Commission to go and tell. But knowing we’re flawed and that we could mess it all up, we retreat behind our walls and get busy with our lives. Yet our neighborhood is filled with souls longing for the life-changing reality of a relationship with God. We must find a way to open our hearts and doors to those we call neighbor.
This is part three of our discussion of the acronym PEARL. If you missed the last two, here are the links to the past two articles: Pray and Eat.
You and I are like the man in the Bible who found a pearl of great price in a field and went and sold all he had in order to purchase that field. You have something your neighbors desperately want. You have the pearl of salvation, the answer to their loneliness and fear and pain. You have it. They need it. So it’s time to share it. Let’s find out how to do this together. Here’s what each letter of the PEARL stands for:
P = Pray for your neighbors
E = Eat with your neighbors
A = Ask them their story
R = Reveal your story
L = Love them tangibly
I’ve shared the past two weeks about the difficult neighborhood we lived in and how God helped us love our neighbors through prayer and eating together. For me the greatest struggle was conversation. I had so little in common with my neighbors. In fact, I felt they rather disliked me, and I worried they questioned my motives for engaging with them.
One mid-summer day, I plucked up my courage and ventured across the street with a plate of cookies to the porch where two of the older ladies sat drinking margaritas. They seemed a bit flustered but pulled up a chair and invited me to sit. After a few minutes of small talk, they jokingly declared to me that they were the queens of the cul-de-sac and that there really was not room for a third queen. I breathed a quick prayer and responded that I was perfectly happy to be a servant and asked if they would like another cookie. Grinning a bit like Cheshire cats, they accepted my cookies and suggested that I could join them tomorrow if I liked. So I did.
The queens were skilled in the art of gossip and speculation. There were many times I despaired that we would never break through to real conversation. But God gave me wisdom to listen without judging. I interjected questions as often as I could. I asked about their families, hobbies, and thoughts about life. After four years of persistence, we eventually began having conversations about God.
One morning one of those precious ladies told me she’d asked Jesus to be the leader of her life. It was end of the queen’s reign and the beginning of the King’s.
I wonder if you’ve ventured across the street in order to engage the queens of your neighborhood. They’re longing for something more, and a servant like you could lead them to the answer. All you have to do is ask a question.
Jesus asked people questions all the time. In John 1:38 he asked a couple of prospective disciples, “What do you want?” I love this for its simplicity. When the “queens” would begin gossiping and speculating about the kids in the neighborhood, it was easy to redirect by asking them, “What do you want for your own kids or grandkids?” Sometimes the response was snarky: “Not like these rotten kids, that’s for sure!” Other times I’d get a sincere response like, “I wish they would call me more. I feel like they grew up and left me.” What an open door to the heart of a “queen”!
If you’re like my listening friend, perhaps getting to know your neighbors will take more time due to your quiet nature. You may find an act of service to be your first step towards asking questions. Take those cookies across the street or offer to help a neighbor in some way. Be vigilant in asking questions. Once a neighbor has accepted your help, you may find one good question will set you on the path of listening well in order to ask one more good question.
If you’re a talker, ask and be still. Don’t be too quick to dump your story. That will come in time. Share small parts of your story for now. For example, you may share a “me too” moment. Your neighbor may say, “I grew up in a small town.” Your response could be, “Really? Me too! I loved the tight-knit community of my small town.” Then follow up quickly with a new question, such as, “What was your favorite part of small town living?” Then be prepared to practice listening.
So, you’ve prayed for your neighbors, found ways to eat with them, and you’ve engaged them by asking questions. Now what? It’s time to begin revealing your story. Next Thursday we’ll discuss how to do the R in PEARL. For now, I want to encourage you not to wait for the other parts of the PEARL before beginning your journey. You can begin praying and eating and asking right now. I’d love to hear how it’s going. Comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joleen Steel is the curriculum specialist for Camping Stick Kids. She has a B.A. in elementary education. She taught public school for ten years before deciding to open her own music studio and homeschool her boys. Joleen is a pastor’s wife and grew up as a pastor’s kid. Her love for the good news of Jesus Christ flows out of her and into the camping stick kids curriculum. Her easy style and creative approach to teaching will encourage your student to learn the Gospel story and be able to share the good news with their friends and family. Joleen would love to have you visit the camping stick kids website and blog. Come say hi at www.campingstickkids.com