Two pottery bowls jostled shoulders in my Ghanaian kitchen—a mortar and a fruit bowl. The mortar looked raw, freshly-kilned, and had little aesthetic appeal. Its orange-red abrasiveness was rough against my hands. It was serviceable, but I questioned how clean I was able to keep the grooves in the belly of the bowl. Usually, I avoided using it.
My clay fruit bowl had been painted varying shades of blue. It was glossy and clean, smooth to the touch, and especially attractive when piled high with fruit. When we left Ghana and moved back to the States, I packed this bowl along, nestling it gently in cloth, for beneath its pretty exterior, it was still a clay bowl, fragile and breakable.
We, too, are made of earth. We jostle against other clay pots, sometimes abrasively. Even well-meaning encounters can leave shards behind. What can we do to make people receptive to a message of truth from us?
Julian Treasure gave a TED talk called “How to Speak so that People Want to Listen.” His discussion was not spoken with evangelism in mind, but it applies to sharing Biblical truths with others. Mr. Treasure’s advice, given in the acronym HAIL, is only one layer of glaze that smooths the roughness of raw clay, making us vessels people will pay attention to.
- Honesty—be clear and direct.
Offer truth with clarity and honesty, without watering down the Word of God. The truth sets men free.
- Authenticity—be yourself.
Be unassuming. Approachable. Cheerful. Without self-righteousness. Pride-free. Let the Gospel be presented with humility.
- Integrity—be your word.
Let your life match your words. Discrepancies turn people away, but a life of integrity could draw them to hear more of God. I know my neighbors watch us because they wave to me when passing my house in the morning and I’m still sitting at the kitchen table with coffee. The brief glimpses they get of me through the window is not enough to alter the testimony I want to leave, but their insight into my morning routine reminds me that I am being watched. I live among people who will measure my words against my life.
- Love—be caring.
Speak the truth in love. Rebukes are softened by love. Sins are covered. Gossip is silenced. Truth is more palatable when served with love.
Allow the Potter, then, to smooth our abrasive edges so Jesus can be presented by these clay messengers and received by those in need of Him.