I used to enjoy fishing in a local river near where I lived. It was stocked with brown trout but no-one knew where the gamekeeper placed the fish. All the fishermen would start at one stretch of the river and move downstream testing their favourite pools. You were only allowed to fly fish, no bait on floats or spinners allowed. We had to learn which bait would attract which fish. Our mantra was 'keeping moving, try different lures to catch the fish'.
One of the common mistakes I see people make when trying to communicate good news is fishing in the same pools with the same bait. Even Jesus had to move on because he was not well received by those who knew him. He suffered from the term 'familiarity breeds contempt.'
In Mark 6:1-6 we see an example of this:
"Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village."
This passage in Mark 6 shows how hard it is for members of our family to take our message seriously because they know our shortcomings. It is hard to believe someone is a new creation when they are so aware of our 'old creation habits.' Even Jesus who was sinless did not have enough credibility to convince his own village, so let's not beat ourselves up and accept this is a tough nut to crack.
Did Jesus lack good things to say? Did he lack connection with people? No, they knew him and were amazed at what he had to say. In fact they rejected his words because they couldn't believe someone from his background could be credible. The gossip about Mary was probably still around.
I meet people who are discouraged because they feel like they have said more than enough to people around them. I remind them Jesus had the same experience but what did he do? He moved on, he went to the next village and then the village after that.
Consider what Jesus did with the seventy two. In Luke 10:1 it says he "sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." Jesus has plans to visit our town and he is sending us to go ahead of him (and notice we are not meant to go alone - work alongside someone). When we visit a place we are meant to seek out "a person of peace" that is someone who welcomes us and our message. According to Jesus "the harvest is plentiful" but if we are spending all our time trying to convince someone who is not a person of peace we are not going to get the response we want. Why do we think saying the same thing to the same person is going to get a different result?
What's the solution? Move on. Find someone willing to listen. I don't mean start harassing people, I mean prayerfully look for opportunities. Treat people well. Part of the problem in western society is that most of us have a limited group of people we know. Added to that isolation is a growing issue. Over 9 million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the population – say they are always or often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting to it (source: British Red Cross and Co-Op, 2016). According to Age UK "Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all."
At the Lighthouse Community Hub we run a community cafe three days a week and we have regular older customers who just come in for a chat. One man is in a wheelchair and comes in for tea and two scones every week. It took him weeks before he brought his wife in too. She admitted that her husband has dementia and it has taken away his confidence. She admitted that coming to the cafe is one of the highlights of his week.
Making space to connect with people is not too hard, it takes a little bit of sacrifice of time and a little bit of love. Let's find potential people of peace and stop trying to convince those who are unconvinced. I suspect you will find the whole experience rewarding.