Thursday, July 25, 2013

Coffee Shop Conversations

This book was not what I was expecting.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, I guess.  The book is over 200 pages long, and I was expecting it to be filled with stories and ideas about sharing your faith in a more natural way.  Sharing it in such a way that people will listen.

And it is that.  Don't misunderstand.   The authors, Dale and Jonalyn Fincher, spend a lot of time telling their stories.  They talk about their successes, and they talk about their failures.  In fact, they are brutally honest about both, which is pretty hard to read at times!  It can make you cringe, especially when you realize that they aren't just talking about themselves, but also about you.  They do a wonderful job showing how to have great conversations with people from all different backgrounds and beliefs.  The stories are great.

While doing this, they talk about different methods of sharing our faith.  They give questions you can ask, ways to help you more naturally bring Jesus into conversations, and show you how people might respond when you bring up different subjects.

It's just that it's more than that.  Way more than that.   Their first section is all about spiritual small talk, but as they move on, it becomes less about how I talk, and more about how I think.  They examine what we believe, and how that drastically affects the way we share the gospel.

Their third section was particularly striking.  They talk about things we make too much out of (creation/evolution, hell, etc), and things we don't make enough of (loving gay people and how we are often hypocritical).  These were helpful.  Mind you, there were some things I didn't necessarily agree with them on, but I'm convinced yet again that our conversations are much more important than we think.

Of course, most of us don't want conversations.  We just want to tell people what we believe, and therefore what they should believe as well.  They say "Sometimes we forget we're inviting people to Jesus and not to our brand of Christianity."  Ouch.

Anyway, I heartily recommend this book.  If you're looking for a book which will help you share your faith, this could very well be the one for you.  It isn't about methods, but about people, perceptions and the daily call to live like Jesus.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The End of Conflict

I've just finished "The End of Conflict" by Andy Johnson.  This was a book I looked forward to reading, and I wasn't disappointed.  In my opinion, the area of conflict, and how we should deal with it as Christians, is not dealt with very well in the Church today.  It is either ignored, or spoken of in ways which are far less Biblical than we would like to think.

The book begins with the beginning, as Johnson brings us to creation, the world without conflict, and the God who is the God of Shalom.  These chapters are fascinating, as we begin to see some conflict in the Bible that we might be more comfortable glossing over.  In particular, we see how God dealt with conflict in many ways.  This suggests that perhaps we aren't to deal with conflict the same way in every situation.  

Then the author deals with the question of conflict, and what it is.  I wouldn't have thought this was important to discuss, but as I read through the chapters on conflict, I was convinced otherwise.  Not only have we misunderstood God and His relationship to conflict, but we have often misunderstood conflict itself.  We say that conflict is a result of personalities, situations, etc., rather than saying it like it is; conflict is a result of sin.  His end definition of conflict is this:

"A conflict is the presence of a broken relationship that has resulted form the commission of sinful actions growing out of inordinate or sinful desires on the part of one party, the offender, against the other, the offended."  

Want to see how he gets there?  Read the book!

The next section deals with the topic of forgiveness.  This is an area that we often go wrong, but if we are building on the foundation that Johnson has laid, we naturally move to a more Biblically grounded concept of forgiveness.  There are some really important questions answered in this section.  Does God forgive sin which isn't confessed?  Is forgiveness conditional?  How much should our forgiveness reflect Gods?  

The final section is also intriguing.  What do we do when those who have sinned against us refuse to do anything about it?  What do we do when they don't confess?  How are we to respond, both inwardly and outwardly?  These are not easy questions, so he doesn't move quickly through the answers.  Instead, we see some careful consideration of different passages which deal with just this.  

All in all, a great book.  I recommend it for every Christian.  In particular, I believe church leaders need to hone in on this idea of conflict resolution, and how we should deal with it both Scripturally and hopefully effectively.