Three pictures of non-interaction

I wrote this article a couple of years ago, but it seems truer now than ever before.

Three little interactions gave me a rare insight into life this morning.  I say interactions, but what I really mean is non-interactions.  On the way back from dropping the car off for it’s not-quite-annual-service, I walked past Poundland in Palmers Green.  Four men were sitting on chairs waiting for either some kit, some supplies or at least instruction: none of them were talking to each other and instead were intently focused on their iPhones/Galaxies or whatever they had in their hands.   On the way to the bus stop I popped into W H Smith to buy a newspaper.  Inside, the sole member of staff was standing near the door rather than at the till.  So I picked up the paper, ran it through the self-service till and left.  One very brief hello, one ‘bye and that was it.

Oyster cards have transformed London buses, but there was almost no interaction between me and the driver as I headed home.  Just flash the card at the sensor and sit down.  No destination, no price given no please and thank you.

Technology has been good.  Things are more efficient now – Oyster cards in particular are a brilliant innovation.  But this lack of interaction is not God’s intention for his created people.  Acts 2:46 says “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”  Of course there are countless other passages about the interaction of people with each other: Christianity is primarily a faith of relationships: God within himself, God with us, us with each other.  John 17 picks this up so well.  It grieves me, therefore that our natural inclination is to remove human interaction from each other.  Of course, that is just one of the things that Jesus came to restore.

So I think there’s a role for us being ‘light to the world’ in this matter.

15 years ago, the shop-fitters would have been enjoying some morning banter, there would have been polite exchange at the till in W H Smith, and the bus driver would have known where I was heading and I would have known how much it cost.  Through God’s common grace, technology can be a benefit to society,  but surely not at the cost of relationships, however brief they might be.  May it not be so for us as Christians; note to self, therefore: don’t let technology ride over the God-given grace of interaction, and may I serve as a reminder of the contentment of even fleeting human relationships.





Shed Evangelism

Recently I was heading back from a town in Kent, where I’d been on a mission with a local church there. I was travelling back with Chris Green, author of this blog and we chatted about evangelism – to men in particular (evangelism to men, not chatting to them). The conclusion I came to – and I can’t remember if Chris agreed or not as I was blathering on so much – was that every man has an inner geek. It might be football, or cycling, or rugby. it might be coffee or Macs or music. Whatever it is, every bloke will have something he is involved with just that little bit too much.

All of this means, therefore successful evangelism to men has to take this on board. The title therefore of my sellout book that will never leave the ideas box is “Shed Evangelism – Redeeming the Inner Geek”.

Talking today to a man who has several inner geeks (there’s something about Oak Hill that both attracts and encourages geekdom) I think we have to start by thinking about how geekyness might be graded, and therefore it might be useful to describe a number of levels. So here’s five levels as a starter for 10:

Geek level: beginnings of obsessiveness, but essential a cheerful enthusiast. Has that slightly smug look towards anyone who isn’t serious about the subject, but is willing to encourage others to join him in his favourite pursuit.

Wonk level: Has sufficient normalness that guilt pangs are all part of the joyful experience. The object of his obsessiveness Is occupying a reserved space in his budget. Never buys everything from just one shop. Will encourage others but only if they show signs of proper seriousness; does not smile when he does his thing.

Nerd level: is now having to buy bits for his obsession on eBay and in parts, so that the cost of buying the full bike/coffee machine/hi fi is not obvious to wife/girlfriend etc. Subscribes to several websites and magazines on the matter. Will spend at least three weeks researching any purchase and still be unhappy with it. Still slightly open and joyful about the object of his nerdiness though.

Obsessive level: guilt levels fluctuate, but then the pleasure from the object of his obsessiveness soon overrides any hint of such a thing. Has had some serious relationships but then the potential other half soon realised where his affections really lay and buzzed off sharpish. Annual holiday is always orientated towards his obsession.

Über-nerd level: does not want anyone else getting into his thing. Likes it to be very exclusive. Apart from money for existence all spare cash is focused on his thing. No relationship with anyone else ever considered apart from those who share his unreserved obsessive focus. The stroking and cleaning of his bike/coffee machine/ hi fi is slightly disconcerting. To be honest he’s difficult to get on with.

To use the terms, Just put use the word describing the appropriate level after the subject. So a coffee wonk is someone who won’t touch instant coffee but is happy with a cafetiere, but a coffee über-nerd is someone who roasts and grinds their own coffee by hand and makes every cup with a thermometer and scales in a darkened room. That sort of thing.

Hmmm…this might have legs.