“For who has despised the day of small things?” – Zechariah 4:10
In the context of Zechariah 4:10 the new Temple was small in relation to the former temple, yet it was a necessary beginning and would eventually impact the whole world. The Lord announced that his pleasure was upon this work, and that his omniscient care was watching over and taking pleasure in the Temple’s completion.
God uses small things to accomplish great things. No work done in the name of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit and in accordance with God’s Word is trivial in God’s sight.
A recent favorite book of mine is The Power of Small by Linda Thaler and Robin Koval. Their book highlights the rich significance that our seemingly small encounters with others have upon our lives.
They tell the story of two shoemakers who had their shops directly across the street from one another in a small German village outside of Berlin. It was the early 1930’s and the Nazi regime was just coming to power. Like clockwork, the two men would arrive promptly at 8am to open their stores so that each wouldn’t risk losing customers to the other if one shop were closed. Yet every morning, as Saul Mueller unlocked the front door to his store, he would pause to tip his hat, nod his head, and say, “Hello, Herr Schmidt!” to his biggest competitor. Hans Schmidt would reply in kind with a polite, “Hello, Herr Mueller!” from across the street.
One morning, Saul’s youngest daughter, Anna, accompanied him to work. After hearing her father’s warm salutation to his archrival, she looked up at him and wondered aloud, “Papa, why do you say hello to that man? He’s not your friend.”
Saul replied, “Dear Anna, as a Jew we are taught that you must always greet your neighbor with a few friendly words. Even if that neighbor is your competitor.”
As Hitler’s grotesque vise tightened around Europe, many changes in the shoemakers’ village took place. One morning, in the predawn darkness, Saul and his family were rounded up in the town square with other Jews for deportation to Auschwitz. As daylight broke, Saul and his family stood shivering and scared in the town square along with several other Jewish families. Suddenly, he heard a voice call to him from down the street.
“Good morning, Herr Mueller!” Hans cried out.
“Good morning, Herr Schmidt,” Saul automatically replied.
Hans, seeing the tragic scene before him, and realizing what was about to happen, thought quickly and rushed over to the guards.
“You cannot arrest this family,” he protested. “They are not Jewish.”
The guard shot him a menacing look.
“And how do you know that, Herr Schmidt?”
“Because he is my cousin, that’s how I know.”
Hans’s authoritative demeanor and unwavering tone convinced the soldiers that he must be telling the truth. They let the Mueller family go.
The two rival shoemakers never saw each other again. The Muellers fled to France and then to England. They finally settled in the United States, where they lived long full lives, raising their children, and living to see their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Because of a simple greeting each morning, just that slight effort to reach out to another human being and acknowledge the bonds between them, The Muelller family was saved. (Thaler, Koval. The Power of Small: Why little things make all the difference, New York, Broadway Books. 2009.)
There is nothing small about small talk.
The other day while at a downtown Starbucks I greeted each person behind the counter. I engaged them briefly with some friendly comments and expressed genuine interest in each of them. In about five minutes I had short conversations with four people behind the counter. As I paid the man behind the register, I followed the line to receive my coffee. Unbeknownst to me there was a middle aged woman that was observing me. I connected with the final Starbucks employee with an additional comment about his ability to multi-task while being gracious to the customers.
As I proceeded to the counter to put cream and sugar into my coffee, I heard a voice say, “You’re not from around here are you?” I turned to make sure that she was talking to me. “Why do you ask?” I inquired. “Your friendly! Many people will smile but they don’t seem really interested. You smile and actually seem to care about people.”
I briefly mused about her comment then said, “Every human is infinitely valuable. And I believe that we have the privilege to treat each other as just that.”
Skeptically she asked, “Do your actually believe that?”
Without hesitation I responded, “Absolutely. My motives are right! I have no hidden agenda what so ever. She paused and looked intently at me. She reached out her hand to shake mine and enthusiastically introduced herself. “My name is Pam!”
I let Pam know that I was a follower of Jesus, and that the God of the Bible describes people He made in His likeness and image. I briefly explained that being made in the image of God meant that humans are unique from the animal kingdom. We have the capacity to worship, are aware of right and wrong, and are of infinite worth to their Creator.
She smiled again at me and said, “Thank you… this has been most refreshing for me.” She turned and walked out the door. I doubt I will ever see her again.
I love the simplicity of Luke’s words describing the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:17. “So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace […Starbucks] day by day with those who happened to be there.”
The last half of the verse is so intriguing to me. Paul was in the marketplace and doesn’t appear to be at all picky about who he would talk with. The phrase we use to describe our ministry is “Reclaiming Organic Discipleship.” That word organic is everywhere these days. Organic has to do with the basic and fundamental ingredients of all living matter. Sharing your faith doesn’t need to be complicated. It can, and should, be organic. Let’s consider the basic ingredients of evangelism. It consists of: you, another person, observation, the Bible and engagement. “Organic encounters” are everywhere if we will simply open our eyes, and most importantly – our mouths – to engage with those who most need to know the love of the Father.
On the lookout for organic encounters,