Penelope is a disciple maker in Southern California. She has been growing a friendship with Jennifer — a goth woman who owns a hair salon, absolutely hates church and dislikes Christians. Here's how God helped Penelope adjust her disciple making strategy to have an amazing spiritual conversation with Jennifer.
A Simple Follow-up Question Led to a Meaningful Conversation
Jennifer owns the salon where I get my hair done. During our last interaction, she shared about how she has a very strained relationship with her parents due to some of their political views, so I specifically asked how her parents were doing. She told me she doesn’t talk to them anymore.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.
“It’s fine,” she sighed. “They’re not going to change, so I’m not going to try to change them. I’m just heartbroken that I’m going to have to give up my family.”
Penelope Adjusted Her Approach to Where Jennifer Was
I thought about sharing a story from Scripture that might speak into what Jennifer was experiencing, but she had told me once how she hates it when her dad, a former pastor, talks to her about the Bible and tries to share stories from it with her.
I knew I had to adjust based on the context, so instead I asked, “What exactly are you looking for?”
“I’m looking for peace — for peace and to find myself.”
“Oh! How are you pursuing finding peace?”
She said she was trying out psychotherapy, counseling, acupuncture — a whole variety of methods — and learning about Buddhism.
As I listened, I was praying that the Lord would show me what to say and what questions to ask. “What is it about Buddhism that interests you?”
“I just really like the teachings.”
“Is it giving you peace?”
She thought a moment. “Yeah, I think so. It’s helping me to meditate.”
Seeing an opportunity, I asked Jennifer, “Well, what would you be willing to do to see God come into your situation and give you peace?”
She thought again and after a brief pause, said, “I’m willing to do anything. I’ve tried so many things, so I’m willing to do anything it takes to get peace.”
Hearing that, I nuanced the question a little bit. “You know, a lot of times doing anything means sacrificing, so what are you willing to sacrifice to get peace?”
“I’d be willing to sacrifice anything and everything. I’ve already sacrificed my family.”
I was about to respond when another client of hers walked in, interrupting our great conversation. I was a little frustrated, but I wasn’t going to let this go.
“Listen, Jennifer,” I said, “I would love to get together with you and hear more of this story and what the Lord is doing.”
Jennifer’s eyes narrowed. “Why do you care so much about my story? Nobody cares about this.”
I told her it was because I felt a spiritual connection to her, at which point she eagerly accepted my invitation and said we should meet at a local spot called the Cat Café.
Penelope Chose not to Let Her Preferences Get in the Way of Building a Relationship
A little context: Jennifer is goth and she loves cats — A LOT — especially black cats. I dislike cats — A LOT. I’m much more of a dog person.
Jennifer described the Cat Café and how there are all these cats that just roam around from off the street, jump up on your lap, purr and let you pet them while you drink your tea. Her description of this place made it sound more like a locale transported from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allen Poe than a coffee shop.
“You like cats, right?” Jennifer’s eyes were wide with expectation.
“Suuuure!” I said, doing all I could to sell it nodding with wide eyes and a smile. The whole time I was thinking, “I need to die to myself, pick up my cross and follow Jesus.” My distaste for cats was something I knew I needed to put aside to do the far more important work of building a friendship with Jennifer.
“Great,” she said. “Let’s do it!”
So, that’s where we are right now. Jennifer’s schedule is super packed, so we’re in the process of getting something concrete on the books. I even offered to bring her tea at the salon if that would be more convenient.
My plan is to bring a sheet of paper with Genesis 1:1-2:3 (that doesn’t actually say “Genesis 1:1-2:3”) and then casually incorporate some of the DBS questions into our conversation, like, “What are you thankful for? What’s stressing you out?”
When it gets to the point of reading the story, I will bust out the paper. If she says, “Oh come on, is that a Bible story?” I will say, “Hey! You said you would do and sacrifice anything to get peace. Are you willing to do this?”
That’s my plan. I’ve never done anything quite like this before, but I know I can’t work with her the same way I work with my neighbors, so I have to pivot and adjust the way I do things. She’s not someone I’m comfortable with at all, but she seems to be spiritually seeking, so I will continue to meet with her and see what the Lord does.
Following up with people can lead to even deeper conversations. Just by asking about something that Jennifer had shared about her family before, Penelope was able to have a meaningful conversation that quickly became spiritual!
We can see God do amazing things when we shift our approach to meet people where they are individually. Penelope knew that Jennifer was different from any of the other women she had ever discipled, so she chose to adjust her strategy. If she had shared a passage of Scripture like she normally would, Jennifer may not have been ready to receive it and it could’ve damaged the relationship. Instead, Penelope asked good questions that took the conversation deeper and showed Jennifer she cared. Now, Jennifer wants to meet again!
Don’t let interference shut you down. When her conversation with Jennifer was interrupted by another customer, Penelope could’ve easily let that be the end of the interaction. Instead, she pivoted and made plans to continue her conversation with Jennifer at a later date.
Being a disciple maker requires that we die to ourselves. While the idea of being at a café surrounded by stray cats sounded incredibly unappealing to Penelope, she was willing to put her preferences aside to follow up her conversation with Jennifer in a place she felt comfortable.