Posts Tagged conversation

Focus on Conversation, Not Conversion by Kira Dewey –

Many Christians today demonstrate the belief that it is up to themselves to “save” their non-Christian neighbors at the expense of loving and civil conversation.

While Christians verbally acknowledge their own fallibility and God’s saving grace, their behavior tends to reflect the opposite. Instead of sharing the gospel in a loving manner, they force their religion on others with dogmatic insistence on “saving” them.

Behavior like this is an unfortunate factor in the loss of civil conversation between those of differing opinions, to the point that people will either repeatedly turn their opinion into sermonic- or downright barbaric- arguments — or avoid discourse entirely.

Last year, my sister dual-enrolled in Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida, to take child development classes.

When one of her professors learned my sister was homeschooled, the professor shared about being on the board of directors for an all-girls Muslim homeschool co-op. She asked my sister to meet with them and discuss their different religions over zoom, since both schools were still fully online in the wake of the pandemic.

Although she accepted the offer, my sister was terrified of the interaction. She had never been asked to engage in a conversation on differing religions, and she feared accidentally misspeaking or saying something “incorrect” about her faith. But mostly, she feared whether a conversation between a Christian and Muslims would be civil.

Fortunately, the call was a beautiful success. Everyone came openly and honestly with insatiable curiosity, unafraid to ask questions about each other’s faiths. They asked my sister why there were so many denominations of Christians and what made them each different. She asked them why they wore hijabs, and why some covered more of the face and some less.

What she took away from the conversation was that neither group tried to convert the other. There was no preaching, shaming or condemnation — merely curiosity and a willingness to share their faith with each other.

Through this conversation, my sister was reminded that it was not her job to save people. Only the Holy Spirit has that power. Her role was simply to answer the girls’ questions and share her faith — and learn about theirs in return.

After watching her engage in such a beautiful conversation, it broke my heart to realize that such an occurrence seems to be the anomaly buried beneath news articles, Instagram stories and Facebook posts with no other purpose than to take sides and convert unwilling listeners.

The beauty of genuine conversation has been lost in today’s society. But hope remains.

At Palm Beach Atlantic University, students in the Supper Honors Program have founded a Socratic Club with the specific purpose of fostering an inclusive and conversation-driven community.

Holding forums several times monthly, all students are invited to spend the evening in conversation, each night focusing on a different controversial, pressing, or “hot-button” topic.

Students from multiple sides of the issue are always present, and all are allowed to speak their minds. While everyone is allowed to express their opinion, the forums are strictly conversation-based — disrespectful words, actions and shutting down of other’s beliefs are strictly prohibited.

In this environment, students are able to engage in open-minded conversation, hearing differing opinions and coming to understand different points of view without the fear of someone trying to convert them to a specific mindset.

Libby Carroll, my fellow Ernest C. Hynds Jr. summer 2022 intern at Good Faith Media, has taken a similar course of action.

In her article “Recapturing the Lost Art of Civil Discourse,” she recalls how she and her Baylor classmates founded the group “Table Talk.” Their purpose, she declares, is explained in four parts:

  • Promote empathy through civil discourse on a myriad of controversial topics.
  • Educate Baylor students by exposing them to opposing viewpoints.
  • Respectfully engage in difficult conversations.
  • Uphold the freedom of speech and the exercise thereof by fostering civil discourse.

Is this the key we’ve been missing?

Perhaps this is the key the modern world is missing. Perhaps, if the world wants to share their beliefs with others, the key is not seeking to immediately convert. Maybe the key is engaging in conversation without expectations, strings attached or bickering, where others can learn from us — and we can learn from them.

God calls Christians to share the gospel — but if instead of sharing it with love, we stuff our views down other’s throats, then we are unknowingly and vainly usurping the power of salvation only found in Jesus Christ.

Our job is not to save others; it is to share God’s love. By engaging in conversation mirroring Jesus’ loving conversations with others, we can better fulfill our mission and live the way God intended us to live.

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When People Talk, It Can Make or Break Your Church – Bill Owen-

When People Talk, It Can Make or Break Your Church | Bill Owen, Leadership, Community, Center for Healthy Churches, Healthy Churches, Conversation, Speech

Unhealthy conversations that go unchecked damage culture. It leads down a path of dissension and decline, Owen writes.

Church people talk.

They talk about all kinds of things: the pastor, her sermon, how many people used to be in worship, and what we ought to be doing but haven’t yet.

This kind of talk can be threatening to a pastor, but it doesn’t have to be.

Having people care enough about what’s happening at church to talk about it is a good thing. Conversation creates culture. It’s the path toward vitality and growth.

Effective church leaders must learn that the surest way out of an unhealthy climate is by changing the narrative, by reframing how “people talk.” This process is nuanced, but the gospels help.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all began as conversations. These writing evangelists stood in a long line of communicators, stringing together stories told and retold, heard and recounted.

They gathered the best and wrote them down so parents could recite them to their children, teachers to their students and neighbors to their neighbors. Before long, friends from remote places were also talking about Jesus as the Son of God.

The political talking heads tried to spurn Jesus’ story by mocking him and killing him for blasphemy. But those who had been near him had gotten word to those now far off that he was so much more.

They re-authored the culture surrounding Jesus’ story all because church people decided to talk.

Conversations can be powerful.

If you think about it, not one of us would have ever come to faith apart from someone having said something to us. Words as simple as “Hey, why don’t you come to church with me?” Maybe it was “I’ll pray for you” or “God bless.”

Whatever it may have been, the fact is someone at one time or another said something that touched us, “spoke” to us or maybe challenged or even angered us. It whetted our appetites or made us curious enough to take a step toward God.

This is how church has worked for two millennia now. It thrives on people talking to one another. This is how a carpenter’s son from Nazareth becomes known all over the world.

People talk and word travels. People talk and lives transform. People talk and churches are established. People talk and systems get established like hospitals and nonprofits to help the poor, the sick and the broken mend.

Just think what churches have accomplished, are accomplishing and still can accomplish by how they focus their talk.

But beware: Having people care enough about what’s happening to talk about it can also be bad.

Unhealthy conversations that go unchecked damage culture. It leads down a path of dissension and decline.

Too often, we underestimate the effects of how people talk. Serious matters treated too casually or electronically reduced to 140-word tweets or diminished to emoticons or scrolled across the bottom of television monitors threaten the culture being shaped.

Talk is seldom cheap. What we say, when and how we say it, counts. It matters in every realm – political, relational and spiritual.

When political leaders articulate with moral clarity our highest values, citizens rally to form a more perfect union.

When friends surround one another during times of crisis, words of comfort and concern give strength and peace.

When a neighbor tells the truth in love to one who has asked for it, when a spouse ends a quarrel with forgiveness, when a teacher bends to encourage a student to use her voice because every child matters – it makes a difference.

Pastors should never underestimate the power of conversation, whether in the hallways, around the table or from the pulpit. It all matters.

It’s easy to settle for tepid, empty words – to exchange pleasantries, to bless the status quo, to comment on the weather or exchange sports scores.

Don’t be duped. While everyday banter can help build rapport and establish trust, left alone or left unshaped is not pastoral leadership.

Good pastors articulate a consistent, clear vision of a God-sized future; communities of faith respond.

Effective pastors are able to spread the message: “Here’s the picture; this is what we’re doing; here’s why we’re doing it; if things go right, here’s what the picture will look like a year from now.”

The really good pastors are able to use their pulpits to offer a prophetic call to congregations to follow the narrative of Jesus without feeling threatened by a low trust culture.

The best pastors are able to get their ministerial staff to be collaborative leaders shaping the new narrative while they lead teams.

When this occurs, specific steps of implementation follow and real ministry takes root shaping the church’s culture, spilling over into the life of the community.

I, along with my colleagues at the Center for Healthy Churches, work to help church leaders and churches identify processes that enable such a shift in narrative building.

Healthy churches and pastors know how to establish a high trust culture that focuses attention on what and how people talk. Churches that put a premium on healthy, intentional conversations thrive.

People are going to talk. Why not make it a healthy conversation?

Bill Owen is the south central consultant at the Center for Healthy Churches. He served previously as pastor of Mount Carmel Church in Cross Plains, Tennessee, before retiring after 32 years of ministry. A version of this article first appeared on the CHC blog website and is used with permission. His writings can also be found on his blog, and you can follow him on Twitter @owenrevbill.


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The George Factor Spells Customer Service


When Carol and I are in New York City to see a Broadway musical or two our trip is not complete without a pre-theatre dinner at Sardi’s Restaurant. Why Sardi’s?  First it is the perfect spot to dine because the staff knows that we are going to a Broadway show and time is important, but there is a far more important reason. The first time we visited more than two decades ago, the Maitre d’ was George. George was the perfect image for the restaurant – gracious, charming, personable, impeccably groomed, and witty. He made us feel that we were in exactly the right spot and that we were in his personal care for the evening. What a talent! What an experience! George had the ability to make us feel as if we were his only concern. He was absolutely present in the moment with us.

On a subsequent visit just before 9/11 we were disappointed to learn that George had retired. It was a real letdown; however, we still had a delightful time. On our most recent visit I inquired about George and if our waitperson had known him. “Oh yes,” she said. “The patrons adored George, but we hated him.”

“Why?” I asked. “He was so good at what he did.”

“He was a strict task master. He questioned us about the menu items. If you did not know the soup of the day, he would send you home. If he saw you eat something in view of a patron, he would reprimand you. You had to be properly dressed or George would have a talk with you. Don’t misunderstand me. He was kind. He was strict but always fair.” Every detail was important to George. Nothing escaped his notice.

Now I understood why we enjoy Sardi’s so much. It is that absolute attention to detail that seems effortless. There are literally hundreds of places to eat in the theatre district, but most give you that hurry-up feeling. We need your table for someone else. This never happens at Sardi’s. Although the dinning room is full, the atmosphere at Sardi’s remains for the patron calm and relaxed. Everything outside might be in a rush, but not inside.

The atmosphere is such that it promotes friendliness and good will. The walls display all of those caricatures of famous show biz celebrities and of course there is the off chance that you will see one of the stars.  Conversations spring up between total strangers and you share one of those delightful moments that will never occur again. It is friendly and relaxed but never intrusive.

From a customer service perspective, I would award the restaurant five stars. I am not a food critic, but our food has always been excellent, except for the bread pudding which I have learned not to order. If you want bread pudding go to Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, South Carolina.

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168 Ways to Communicate Better Now Plus Two -111-112-113

111. Tell the truth.

You don’t have to remember what you said to whom.

It saves time.

Maintaining your integrity is paramount.

It is so much easier. 

 112. Think before you speak.

You won’t have to apologize as often.

You’ll have more friends.

Work will go smoother.  

113. Try new foods.

You might find something you like.

New foods make for interesting conversations.

You’ll learn more about other cultures.

You will learn more about your own culture.

Meals won’t be as boring.


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