« Athens 2004 Olympic Games | Taxi Conversations »

Jo's Joke

26 March, 2004 9:08 AM

It was a quiet Wednesday morning in my local cafe - a place where I go every day if I can, partly because it serves the best coffee in Melbourne, but partly because I'm wanting to make some connections there with the staff and regulars.

I was sitting in my favorite position in the window on a comfy lounge chair. I love the spot because I can watch people go by on the street but also still see everything that is happening in the cafe - I'm a people watcher from way back.

I was sipping on my latte while working on a powerpoint presentation for a talk I'm doing on Saturday when 'Jo', a waitress who I've been getting to know, came up to me to clear my table. She looked over my shoulder at my laptop screen and said - 'You look rather perplexed - what are you working on?'

I'm never quite sure how to explain what I do - the talk I was preparing for was to our denominational heads - I wondered how to explain without freaking her out. She knows I'm 'religious', she sees me reading my bible there some days and sees me meet with people from my community of faith there each week - but we've never talked explicitly about 'Church'.

In the end I told it as it was - 'I'm preparing a presentation for the national leaders of our church - I am a bit perplexed, I'm trying to work out what to say.'

She just stood there looking at me. She did look a little freaked, but she didn't move away from the table. I sat there waiting for her response. It didn't come - she just stood there looking, thinking and seemingly waiting for me to say something.

It was one of those moments where I began to rack my mind for something to say. Do I change the topic? Should I sit her down and explain the gospel using a picture of two cliffs and a cross representing a bridge? Should I gather up my stuff, pay for my coffee and run screaming from the cafe never to return?

I said none of these things but instead found myself asking her a question that if I'd thought about it would never have asked.

'What would you say to them?'

Again she stood looking - time stood still - the silence between us was excruciating. There she stood, peroxided hair with a tinge of pink, pierced nose and lips, ripped baggy pants, tiny crop top, exposed midriff, tattoos. I took in the site and wondered if I'd actually said the question out loud.

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity 'Jo' responded to me. Not with words however but with hearty laughter. Actually it didn't start with laughter, it started with smiling eyes, progressed to a giggle hidden behind a hand and then progressed to a hearty belly laugh. Others in the cafe began to look, hopefully thinking that she was laughing at some witty joke I'd told her rather than laughing at me. I didn't know how to respond, so I began to laugh with her, all the time wondering what, or who, the joke was.

She wiped her tear filled eyes and tried to compose herself. 'Sorry' she said. 'I don't mean any disrespect. I can't imagine talking to people like that, but if by some strange chance I did, the only thing I can think to tell them is that the Church is a complete Joke.'

I wasn't quite sure how to take Jo's words. Part of me did feel a little offended to be honest, but most of me found myself agreeing with a lot of how she explained herself. She went on to share that she had had some experience of the church growing up but had left as a teen. In more recent years she had been back on a few occasions for friends baptisms and weddings. She described those experiences as 'like visiting another planet' and 'like stepping back in time'.

She very articulately explained that her friends just didn't talk, relate or behave like people did in church. Add to that her opinion that the church wasn't really handling issues like ordaining women, sexuality or child abuse by clergy very well and her opinion was simply that it was all a joke that she could never take seriously.

At that point 'Jo' had to serve someone else and I was left to ponder her words. The cafe got busier and there was no opportunity to talk more except for the moment when I went up to pay. I thanked her for her thoughts and said I might quote her in my presentation. She said that was cool and almost embarrassingly said - 'Don't get me wrong, I'm a very spiritual person, but I just didn't find church to be a spiritual place - sorry'.

I wonder if I have guts to use her words on Saturday!?

Update - well I've finished preparing for my talk and Jo's words are central to what I shall share. I'll update here on how they are received when I get home tomorrow night. No posting tomorrow - off to Adelaide now. Have a good weekend.

Comments

Page:

You HAVE to.

Mike » 26 March, 2004 10:41 AM

We all need to hear stuff like that - especially those of us in Christian leadership.

For too long we've expected non-churched people to listen to us without hearing what they think.

We need to hear them so that we can effectively introduce them to Jesus.

Rodney Olsen » 26 March, 2004 12:32 PM

You did mention a few days ago that you wondered what to say to the church leaders..... I think youve got your answer now. If the emerging church (which is what you are talking about) is to relate to outsiders who see the whole church thing as a complete joke, then these leaders have to he aware that, from the perspective of your cafe friend, they are leading a "joke", and their culture is alien to most people who don't interact with it.
IM sure you can say that nicely!

dave the rave » 26 March, 2004 8:59 PM

You did mention a few days ago that you wondered what to say to the church leaders..... I think youve got your answer now. If the emerging church (which is what you are talking about) is to relate to outsiders who see the whole church thing as a complete joke, then these leaders have to be aware that, from the perspective of your cafe friend, they are leading a "joke", and their culture is alien to most people who don't interact with it.
IM sure you can say that nicely!

dave the rave » 26 March, 2004 8:59 PM

good post. has me thinking about others who share her view as well as churches (and church goers) who are oblivious that such a view exists.

jenn d » 27 March, 2004 12:00 AM

Darren
I wrote almost the same thing in the posted linked in my url for this comment
You have to tell them this story - they have to know.
Thats the point of the emerging church in my mind - to be relevant.
The traditional structure has completely lost it, and the more evangelical churches while more "friendly" are not real enough. I generalise here but they are 80% full of sunday only christians - and that shows.
Real christianity is meeting with people like Jo where she is at. Well done on how you handled that - you now have a chance for conversation with her later, and maybe an invite to a "real church".
One last comment. I remember street witnessing years ago (in the 80's) with a bunch of well meaning guys and gals, however when it came to the crunch - we failed miserably. One of the guys had bought a brand new leather jacket - nice tan soft and supple leather - man was he proud of it. A homeless dude spurned the tract that was offered and quoted the verse about giving them your jacket when they take your coat. He asked - dude will you give me your coat if you are real about this? My friend couldn't do it and in our debrief afterwards, we all realised that we couldn't have either. We are NOT saved by works (by grace alone), but by our works are we known.
Too many people like Jo see the fancy buildings and the empty words and are never connected with the reality that is Jesus in us. Whose fault is that...

Tim » 27 March, 2004 12:02 AM

Just wished I were in Melbourne today. Rodney Howard-Brown is ministering in Bayside church today and stays in Melbourne for the whole week. I remember a good friend of mine while eating in a restaurant by herself one day got the Holy laughter. She actually felt embarrased by that and tried to stop laughing. But she couldn't. But then everyone in the restaurant got so curious and then she had to witness to everyone.

Susan » 27 March, 2004 10:47 AM

Darren, great post. I linked this post from my site. Thanks for sharing.

Blessings,

joshua

joshua.michael » 28 March, 2004 1:22 AM

Email this entry to a friend:

Friend's email:


Your email:


Message (optional):