At the age of 16 I started an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. It was a dream come true for me as I was a car enthusiast and really enjoyed motor racing.
The beginning of success for me was being a master’s apprentice under an old timer called Les Spilsbury. He was well into his 60s and had started his trade in the late 1930s. He was a great teacher and I lapped it up.
He taught me keys to succeeding—eight simple steps:
1: Learn the client’s name and use it.
2: Ask lots of relevant, specific questions.
3: Listen to what they say and be interested.
4: Repeat what they say and nod in agreement to get confirmation.
5: Be observant of them and their vehicle.
6: Get permission to help them by making suggestions and solving their problems.
And the two final and most important principles of all:
7: Have a toolbox with ALL the right tools and SELECT the right tool to do the job properly.
8: Repeat all the above time and again.
These became life lessons for me. I often imagined Jesus as a Les Spilsbury, a kindly-faced person with warmth and great wisdom. This became part of who I am today.
I grew up in a family that served. As a teenager, our house was a drop-in for my mates and, as time went on, video ministries with Pastor Cox’s Revelation seminars in the ‘80s morphed into Tuesday night Bible studies that still run some 35 years later. My mum and dad took time to know people and serve, then share Christ.
For me, ministry begins in the common places, and common courtesy is the key to someone’s mind and heart. I’m intentional about how I speak to people on the telephone or in personal interactions. I’ve had a cleaning and restoration business for 28 years.
People say my ability to be at ease and share Christ with people comes from my sales training, but I believe my ability to be at ease with people is because of my relationship with Christ. I know the value of my life in Him.
Because I enjoy and really like people I just ask general questions about their life, whether that be about their favourite sports team, occupation, the weather, movies etc. If I meet people in shops or in their homes or workplaces, I pay attention to what they’re wearing or reading. What’s on their walls or book shelves gives me clues to what they value most. I always glance for Bibles or other religious paraphernalia as a clue to their upbringing or convictions.
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of sharing deep conversations with men and women about their lives—often amusing, at times searching for meaning, sometimes distressing.
" . . . ministry begins in the common places, and common courtesy is the key to someone's mind and heart."
People tell me their life stories or dreams often within minutes of meeting them; I just smile, listen and ask thoughtful, directed questions. I silently pray as I listen, and I appeal to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and direction. More often than not a question is asked or an observation is made that strikes gold.
A flood of emotion or a realisation is made by them about their lives, which leads to them asking me questions about the source of my understanding or wisdom.
This is where appealing to the Holy Spirit is most important because it’s easy to talk in “Christianese”, much like a Pharisee, and go in with an agenda or a solution. But Christ leads people to the Father through Him. I’m very careful and I don’t answer every question—if people are hungry they will search.
Today I still have a toolbox, but this toolbox has different tools—it has a Bible, prayer, questions, access to counsellors, compassion, non-judgement, church family, health foods, Steps to Christ. It has invitations to lunch with my family. But most of all I have Jesus in my toolbox.
I have prayed with many people in their homes, workplaces or coffee shops. Some I’ve led to Christ, some have been baptised. With some I’ve planted a seed that others will water and grow. Unfortunately some seed has fallen on fallow ground.
Jesus called this mechanic to serve and my toolbox has eternity within it. What tools has Christ entrusted you with?
Peter Karaoglanis is an elder at Glen Huntly Church, Victoria, and member of the Victorian Conference media team.