A little while ago I posted an “Alfredism” on my Facebook page that goes something like this: “Instead of always looking for better speakers, the church needs to learn to have better conversations.” That post got a few good responses, and I kept thinking about it. Specifically, I asked myself, “What kind of conversations would I like to see happen in the church?” After thinking about it some more, it occurred to me that maybe this will be a good topic for a short blog series. So here we go… 🙂
For as long as I could remember, just about everything we want to do in the church started by trying to get someone to “speak on the topic”. When I was involved in the leadership of my campus youth group back in my university days, every semester we would sit down as a committee to plan out the list of topics for our weekly gatherings. After figuring out what issues we want to address, the next step, the next question was always: “Who is good at speaking on that?”
After finishing school, I noticed the same way of thinking more or less governed how the church ran. Every year at the start of the year we were told the issues the church would focus on, and there would be corresponding sermon series that address each of the topics. After I became a pastor, I continued to function the same way and planned my preaching for the year.
But that way of thinking is, for the most part, “one way”. When church leaders think about what topics the church should address this year, the question really was “What do our people need to be told this year?” So we find speakers or prepare sermons to tell people what we feel they need to be told about. That approach often gives the illusion of “2 way conversations”: After each of those sermons, people who think just like us will come up and tell us: “We really needed to hear THAT.” What they really meant, was “THEY really needed to hear that.” But you never hear from THEM, those who really struggle with the issues you just talked about, because they can usually tell within 2 minutes of listening to a speaker whether the speaker is interested in hearing what life is like for them, and thus whether there is a point to keep listening.
Perhaps what we really need in the church is not better sermons, but better conversations. Conversations that are inviting and inclusive and safe and non-judgmental. With that in mind over the next couple of weeks I will post some of my thoughts on the following conversations I wish we had when I was in the church. The same conversations that I still hope we will hear in the church today. These are issues that I either can personally relate to or am passionate about. Even though this is my list, I don’t think I am alone:
(1) We need to have better conversations on marriage, divorce and infidelity
(2) We need to have better conversations on homosexuality
(3) We need to have better conversations on Christianity and other religions
(4) We need to have better conversations on mental health
So, let’s grab a cup of coffee, and chat….
(Image by Valery Kenski)