How to make spiritual small talk

women making small talk

To show Jesus to others,
you need to have seen him first yourself.

If you’ve ever walked away from a conversation thinking, “What precious time we just wasted in idle chitchat,” you might want to read Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk by Dale and Jonalyn Fincher. 

Coffee Shop Conversations by Dale and Jonalyn FincherThe Goal

It aims to equip you in steering conversations to subjects that matter, with truth and gentleness, while avoiding being offensive or bullying or just plain weird.

One thing it did for me was open my eyes wider to how non-believers think, and show me how to move through barriers that typically keep believers and non-believers from sustaining a religious discussion.

Another thing it did was confirm what I already know: believers could be reinforcing each other’s faith far more than we do, if we’d be more intentional in our conversations.

Topics

The book is divided into three sections:
Part I: Making Spiritual Small Talk
Part II: Restocking Your Tools
Part III: Helping Friends Home (don’t you love that title? I do!)

Individual topics include:

  • Conversation stoppers
  • Misquoting Jesus
  • Avoiding mountains that are molehills (Jonah and the whale; “errors” in the Bible; evolution;…)
  • Addressing molehills that can really be mountains (hypocrites in the church; loving homosexual friends; is the Bible sexist; abuse of power among Christians;…)
  • How to make God talk
  • and much more

Seven Manners

In contrast to the beat-over-the-head-with-a-Bible method too often misused in evangelism, the Finchers suggest these seven manners are needed for an effective spiritual conversation:

  1. Respect one another
  2. Step into their shoes
  3. Wrestle on your own
  4. Never judge a thing by its abuse
  5. Update your opinions of others
  6. Share your personal experience
  7. Allow others to remain unconvinced

Do YOU know him?

Sharing personal experiences of life with Jesus remains our number-one recommendation to make genuine and natural spiritual small talk.

The Finchers will ask you such things as: how do you talk about non-Christians when you’re with other Christians? If you mock them or ascribe unverified motives, you’re revealing an inward disrespect that you need to deal with.

Are you shocked when people reveal their dark secrets? Jesus wasn’t. Don’t use shame to whip people into good behavior.

And they say evaluate your own experience with Jesus. How well do you know him? Are you aware enough of your own personal experiences to share him with others? If not, your best PR attempts will ring hollow.

We have trouble bringing up Jesus in our conversation because we’re not precisely sure what he offers us besides heaven and a community that holds us accountable to good morals. We’re simply not sure what other good news Jesus was talking about.

Can you tell others the benefit of knowing the truth?

Most people don’t want truth for its own sake; they only want truth if it leads them to a place they’ve been looking for. But where are the tracks going? Why should I follow your Jesus over his Buddha?

...Jesus emphasized the significance of our destination when he gave his famous line, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Keep it simple

It’s easy to get sidetracked on issues that are best left to intramural discussions among your Christian friends. Remember your focus is an invitation to know Jesus, not to convert to your brand of Christianity.

That means you don’t have to provide a 10-point defense on every attack on the Bible. Your job is to love others and introduce them to Jesus. Major on important topics, like the resurrection of Jesus, versus wrestling with end-time theories.

Talk about God as personal, with a name, and how he empowers you to grow in love, not to earn his acceptance, but as evidence of it.

Ask what they do about their human weaknesses. Bring up prayer to move the dialogue from “intellectual possibilities to actual personal experiences.” Point out that even Jesus’ closest disciples had to pray often for help.

In beginning conversations about spirituality, we enjoy talking about prayer because the subject feels comfortable to most people. Try this question out by asking your friends if they pray to God.

Let them know that unlike most Eastern religions, Christianity offers more than maxims and meditations to “try harder” and “let go” and instead offers a person, Jesus Christ himself.

Remain open to being helped by those you are trying to help. You still have things to learn too.The Finchers sum up well:

Our hope is that you will find many friends to learn from as you talk about Jesus. We want this book to serve not merely as a collection of apologetic tools, but as a road map guiding you toward freedom to be yourself as you talk about Jesus.

We hope you will customize your conversations to the unique gifts God has forged in your soul. May you develop your own questions and ideas to introduce others to the God of Israel.

May you continue to be taught and humbled by the humans God places in your life.

I found this book to be encouraging and hopeful not only for sharing my faith, but also for understanding my faith. The more I share how I think and feel about Jesus, the more I can articulate how truly important he is to me.

And he is the most important thing. That’s no small-talk.

* * *

13 comments:

Whitney Harrison said...

This book is definitely on my to-read list now! Thanks for sharing it with us. Now that I'm working nights I eagerly await your posts every morning :) I can always learn something or be inspired from it. Thanks Aunt Lisa!

Lisa notes... said...

Thanks, Whitney. I think you'd love this book. I'd lend it to you but it's on my Kindle. I pray you'll be exposed to lots of opportunities through the years to talk with families about Jesus at a time when they desperately need him. Keep loving those sweet babies. I'm so proud of your job choice!

I just recommended this book last night to Tracy for her Nook. :-)

Monica Sharman said...

Ooo, that #7 is so hard!

Thanks, I've never heard of this book before. I'll look for it.

Barbara H. said...

I'm putting this on my TBR list.

Cherry said...

Visiting from Walk with Him Wednesdays ... this looks like a good, helpful book. I have put it on my list ... thanks so much for sharing!

Dale Fincher said...

Lisa, You "get" it. And that's a high honor you can give to any author. Thank you for your fantastic review.

I do think there is hope for evangelicals to learn a better way to talk with the world and with each other, intentional and loving. We're all human, after all, trying to track out way through life, sharing what we've found and listening to what others have found. And may the Spirit continue to lead us to his heart and our rich, human purpose.

Google alerts led me to your blog. I'll give an announcement on our facebook fan page to alert people to your blog and thoughtfulness.

Thank you, again, for taking the time.

~dale

Carrie said...

Hmm...that's an interesting concept for a book! Sometimes I'm not sure what to say even when there IS an opening.

And I appreciated the opening comments about avoiding weirdness! Even as a Christian, I'm always weirded out when other Christians open conversations with starters that you just don't feel comfortable answering - even when you know what they mean! They just worded it so oddly that you are rather stupefied into silence.

I rather err on the side of saying nothing, hoping that I just don't say the WRONG thing. And I wait for a clue from the person I don't know as to whether or not I should say something specifically related to faith or not.

Anyway, interesting idea. Thanks for sharing more about this book!

Lisa notes... said...

You are welcome, Dale. I’m happy to spread the word about your wonderful book, and I pray it will help each of us make a difference within our circles of friends and acquaintances. It has definitely made an impression on me.

Graceful said...

I am absolutely intrigued by this book, Lisa. Thank you for your thorough review and overview.

I especially like #7. As an unbeliever for more than two decades, I know now I could have never been forced, or even persuaded, to instantly begin to believe. It was a process -- for me, a glacially slow process! -- that happened over time. My husband, who has always been a spiritual person, didn't try to convince me. Yes, we talked about God and his beliefs and how and why he believed, but he was okay with letting the conversation remain unfinished. He always told me, "I know in my heart you will find faith." That was a comfort to me, but not a threat -- I didn't feel forced to believe.

I could go on and on about this subject -- but suffice to say, I love the sound of this book. I may have to read it. Now that I am a believer myself, I wrestle deeply with how to talk to others about my faith (maybe that's why I simply write about it -- that is easier!).

Lisa, Thank you also for your kind words on my post today. I will be thinking of you and praying for joy and peace for you this Christmas, too. So very glad to have "met" you this year!

Love,
Michelle

Craig said...

There is so much to take away from this. I normally shy away from any book reviews. But it’s good I didn’t get diverted this time, I was blessed by reading these words today. So true, if people don’t see Our Lord in me, why bother listening.

And mountains and molehills and molehills and mountains – awesome.

And you are right – “The more I share how I think and feel about Jesus, the more I can articulate how truly important he is to me.” In the telling, I am told – and today – in the reading – I was told. Thank you. Merry Christmas. I look forward to reading you more.

Shaunie Friday--Up the Sunbeam said...

"Never judge a thing by its abuse." What a mouthful! Excellent review that makes me want to check this one out! Thanks Lisa!

Connie Mace said...

"Your job is to love others and introduce them to Jesus."...amen...why do I ever forget this? Thank you for sharing a great book.

hip-chick said...

This sounds like a very good book. I have seen well intentioned Christians turn people away from Jesus so many times. Very often we do come across as weird, crazy, holier than thou, or to pushy. In our zeal to bring people home we often end up sending them in the other direction. This book sounds great.

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