• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Gospel Conversation

Last night I was invited to attend a meeting of leaders from our French church.  As I sat listening to their discussions, I couldn’t help but wonder how these leaders navigated the discussions they were having, given the multiple cultural backgrounds from which they came.  Some of the cultures represented were: Chadian, Vietnamese, French, Central African Republic and Congolese.  All these leaders were conversing in French, but obviously working from different cultural frameworks. 

Cross cultural living and working really does necessitate “that we have a deep understanding of what others believe, what is their worldview;” that we understand how others think, how they process so that we can better engage them in Gospel dialogue. 

Colossians 4:6 has been a help to me in thinking through what we mean by Gospel conversation with others.  Here Paul describes the nature or character of Christian discourse: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person.”   First of all, Gospel conversation is characterized by its graciousness, its kindness.  It is never harsh in order to make a point.  And second, it is “wisdom filled”, that is, it is conversation that brings depth and insight as well as challenges. It incites others, in a good way, to further dialogue.

What has struck me the most in this text is that the work of “preparing”, of understanding is all directed towards knowing first how to respond to another, not how to initiate conversation in order to get across what I want to say.

2 Responses

  1. i recently jotted down a quote, pulled from a commentary, that expresses a similar idea : “pour aimer, il faut ressentir la force de ce que l’autre croit, ressentir le pouvoir de séduction.”

    “in order to love, one must feel the force of what the other believes, recognize its power of seduction.”

    i’ve tried to track down where it came from for the longest time, but cannot put my hands back on the book. i believe i was preparing to teach on jonah but i see no obvious link to the story…

    anyhow, i think the idea here goes even slightly further than what you expressed. “we need to have a deep understanding of what others believe, what is their worldview; that we understand how others think, how they process.” yes…but for me, this remains somewhat at the cognitive level.

    we might also need to go to the emotional level. our sense of compassion might lead us to search out the “force of attraction” in what the other believes. what is the attraction (it is probably not strictly about knowledge) ? where is this attraction coming from ? what would it mean for this person to abandon that ?

    • Agreed. When I said “a deep understanding”, I was searching for the best way to describe the notion of “experiencing” or of being able to comprehend (in a full orbed sense) what another thinks, believes; what drives and motivates them. Your comment brings that out more clearly than my weak attempt. Thanks.

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