We started the book Holy Conversation by Richard Peace last Thursday at cell group. Well at least we read the introduction and are ready to begin, but there's a slight hitch. This is not just a theoretical study!
You see, the book is on "talking about God in everyday life." On the back cover it is described as "a useful guide to help Christians and secular people talk about the gospel in ways that are comfortable, easy, and mutually beneficial and enriching." And when we first took a look inside the covers two weeks ago, we discovered that we each had to find a "conversation partner!"
By "conversation partner," Richard Peace had in mind someone who is "not yet a conscious follower of Christ."
We all thought the book sounded excellent when Jane suggested it. I mean we could all benefit from learning to express our faith without "Christian jargon," right? Of course! But each of the 12 sessions have homework--an actual weekly practice conversation.
I notice that we are all a bit nervous about who our partner will be. It's as though a pregnant hush has descended, full of possibility and not a little stress.
What has quickly become evident is how insular we have all become as followers of Jesus. For instance I work for a Christian organization, go to church with believers, belong to a writers group in which I believe we are all Christians, have a circle of close friends who are all Christians--you get the picture.
I thought I would pick on my brother. Yes he is on another continent, but I thought we could talk by phone--we do every week anyway.
He said "No." Well, not just like that, but almost. I asked him and he said, "I had a feeling something like this was going to come up today," (hmmm, my brother has the gift of prophesy??)
"No, Belinda," he said, "I have my own thoughts and they are private. I don't want to talk about them."
There is NOTHING Rob and I don't talk about. But "this"..no.
I know that God has someone for each of the ten of us in the cell group to talk with. I'm praying that he will show me soon who mine. I'm considering placing an ad in the post office.
Who would have thought that this would be such a challenge? And what has become of us that it makes us so uncomfortable? And why have we isolated ourselves so?
I can't help thinking that we are a microcosm of the Church. We gather together with one another each week but barely connect with a person who thinks differently or doesn't know about Jesus.
Some of us did so when we had newly come to faith in Christ, but went about it so clumsily, or judgmentally, or with so much zeal, that we turned off and scared off our friends and family. I know I did this years ago--and maybe more recently than years ago. I talked at people, not with them, and I was so arrogant in how I communicated. I wish that I had first learned to listen; to converse with respect for the views of others and to wait for the Holy Spirit to lead in conversations.
Is what we are trying to do too artificial and contrived? I don't know. I do know that I'm challenged, and wondering what God might be about to do.
English Standard Version (ESV)
13(A) Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.