Safe Places

The book was a best-seller for many weeks, so I read it as a 20-year-old hoping to understand business.

Titled “Winning Through Intimidation,” it was all about gaining a power position over your “adversaries.” The author, a high-end real estate broker, viewed every relationship as adversarial.

He’d lost a series of deals when buyers and sellers sidestepped him to beat him out of his commission. The final straw broke when two guys excused themselves to use the men’s room where they agreed on a different meeting place, then ducked out the door sticking him with a lunch tab and no clients.

The guy offered dozens of frightful tips for intimidating others. He would schedule meetings at private airports, arrive late in a rented plane to which he pretended ownership, secure a deal while not allowing his buyer and seller time alone at any moment. Of course, among a couple of dozen other tactics, he suggested holding meetings in your office (including expensive furniture) seated in front of a window to semi-blind your adversary.

The book was an excellent tool for me – I learned to take an opposite position to everything the guy suggested.

If a staff member got into trouble, I’d meet them in their office, on their turf where they felt safe and in control. If we needed to deal with a tough problem in the church or with an angry member, I’d ask them to pick a restaurant or coffee shop where things couldn’t get too boisterous and where they felt in control. This way, I’d trust Jesus to direct conversations rather than rely on human intimidation or some other invention.

This approach spilled over to evangelism. I would rather build a relationship leading toward Jesus than try to sell a person the gospel. I’ll meet them on their turf instead of inviting them to church. For me, patience really is a virtue, and the person I’m trying to disciple is not an adversary but a friend who doesn’t yet know, or fully know, Jesus.

Their safe place may be a coffee shop, a bar or the place where they work on motorcycles. Spending time there leaves them in control and feeling comfortable.

My wife and I share with one friend who has made substantial steps into a relationship with Jesus over the past few months. He still brags that he’s never read the New Testament but likes to tell me what Jesus would do for the poor, for immigrants at the border, etc. I sometimes fall into arguing with him but usually refrain. We began praying together over his business fairly early into the relationship, and God has met him wonderfully. He now insists that we pray together. And, he’s praying on his own.

This Easter, he sent my wife a greeting that a pastor might have as well written. We were awestruck by it. So much so that we crossed a line by inviting him to visit our small online digichurch. That invitation met total silence. He completely ignored it while inviting us to lunch. We decided we need to stick to discipling him on his turf.

However, my wife brought a gift to our next lunch meeting. It was a small box of scripture memory cards. Probably cost less than ten dollars. By his reaction, you might have thought it was a check for ten thousand. He’s now dabbling in scripture, and the future is wide open.

I had a friend who used to say, “inch-by-inch anything is a cinch.” Corny as that sounds, a mixture of patience and safe places can lead to meaningful evangelism.