“I had the privilege of being one of the speakers at a discipleship conference not too long ago,” said a member of our home group the other day during a group discussion, “and the guy who introduced me said something to the crowd about the fact that I also happen to be a bow hunter, and that I make bows as a hobby.”
“From then on,” he continued, “for the remainder of the conference, I became the ‘bow guy’. Everyone who came up to me wanted to talk bow hunting, or bows in general. Nobody wanted to talk about Jesus.”
He said all of this stemming from a question that was asked within our home group on: Where do we find our identity, our self-worth? To what do we base our value; with others, and with God?
My friend was disappointed that the only thing people seemed to take away from his appearance at the conference was not his words on discipleship, not his relationship with Jesus or that he was a pastor of a seemingly influential church but only that he was the ‘bow guy’. To him, in that setting, the ‘bow guy’ became his identity.
Of course, as he was confessing this, heads nodded all around our small group. Murmurs arose of, “yeah, that’s unfortunate”, “too bad” and “people can be so shallow”.
I got to thinking though, who exactly was it who missed the opportunity here? Was it the people? Because they didn’t want to talk ‘Jesus’ and only wanted to talk ‘bow hunting’? Did they miss a golden opportunity to learn more on the discipleship process because their minds were filled instead with images of big game and camo gear and silent arrows flying straight and true toward their target?
Or was it my friend who missed out on an opportunity to cross a bridge of common interest being built between two strangers?
Yeah, all these people wanted to do was talk bow hunting, or bows in general. Yeah, within that setting, ‘bow guy’ became his identity to them…
At least, at first.
But where does the conversation go from there? Could these people have been building a conversational bridge, based on a subject that they knew my friend was an expert in? A familiar, approachable topic that two otherwise complete strangers may have had in common? Could his identity as the ‘bow guy’ have been an attempt to even the playing field between the one guy you see on the stage, and one of a hundred guys in a sea of faces in the audience?
Could this identity have actually been a platform to jump off toward another topic my friend may also be well versed on? Like discipleship … or Jesus?
He’ll never know.
And, so what if it doesn’t? What if the conversation over a cup of coffee never goes any deeper than six-point bucks and the tension strength of different kinds of wood? Is anybody really out anything?
I remember the first time I truly felt an impact from seeing and talking with a church pastor. He was the first guy I had ever seen preach the Word of God while wearing, *gasp*, jeans and a flannel shirt. He was just a guy, a regular Joe, like me.
I also remember the times when pastors would speak on subjects wrapped around the stories of their own shortcomings: teenage rebellion, a past drinking habit, questioning, doubt. It made them real. It made them genuine.
Therefore, at least to me, it made them believable. If some of the muck they were willing to dredge up from their own past was true, maybe some of the other stuff they were talking about was true as well.
Like the Gospel. Like discipleship. Like Jesus.
Another friend of mine said this to me the other day: “Very little that comes out of my mouth will probably ever lead people to Jesus. But who I am? Day in and day out? What I do? That speaks volumes.”
Yeah, I believe that’s true. Even if who you are, is the ‘bow guy’. It makes you human. It makes you a regular Joe. It makes you approachable. It builds a bridge.
Go ahead and step across; you never know where that path of conversation may lead, or where you may be able to lead it … maybe even to the foot of the cross. If not, the worst you’ll have is a cup of coffee and a nice conversation on six-point bucks and the tension strength of different kinds of wood.