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.
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.
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
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:
- Respect one another
- Step into their shoes
- Wrestle on your own
- Never judge a thing by its abuse
- Update your opinions of others
- Share your personal experience
- 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.
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