Thursday, March 22, 2012


One of the most interesting discoveries I have made in the last couple of years is how closely related the word "conversion" and the word "conversation" are. It's one of those things that, when you realize it, you wonder how you ever missed it. Of course, they're practically the same word.

But it was a big breakthrough for me because it hit me -- our conversations have the potential to convert us -- to change us. If you read the Gospel of John, what you see Jesus mostly doing is talking. Schmoozing. Chatting. Having conversations. They're extremely deep and holy conversations, but he spends way more time talking to people in John than he does healing them or preaching to them. Philip and Andrew. Nicodemus. The woman at the well. The man paralyzed for 38 years. His disciples. Talking. Conversing. Jesus is the Word made flesh, and John portrays him bringing salvation and transformation through this words.

Reggie McNeal writes a lot about the massive changes that churches are undergoing because of the changes in society. He says we need to "change the scorecard" -- the things we count that tell us how effective we are. For generations, churches have counted things like how big their building is, how many show up on Sunday, how much money they raise -- "buildings, butts, budgets." McNeal says we have to start counting different things -- like how many lives are changed.

I see a downward trend in those traditional scores of success. But that might mean we have to start counting different things. And one of the things I think we should start to count is the number of truly significant, God-led, life-impacting conversations we have, both inside and outside the church -- the number of interactions we have where God is clearly there.

The other day I spent some time with a family that is going through one of those gut-wrenching crises with one of their kids who is very ill. I was just so deeply moved by their courage, their vulnerability, their incredible love and support for one another. I don't know if I helped them, but they sure helped me.

Yesterday, I met with two young women who are preparing to be confirmed. They're older than the usual teen confirmation class, so we've been meeting on Wednesdays to talk about faith, God and the church. Yesterday we met over iced tea and coffee at Starbucks. And I am blown away by the maturity and depth of their questioning and their insight.

Last night, I met with two young couples who have started to come to church and have asked about baptism for their children -- and in the case of one of the Moms, baptism for herself. We talked about "kairos" moments in our lives, those times that are filled with significance and meaning, and that have the potential to change us. I thought we'd skim over the surface because we were meeting for the first time as a group. But the immediate level of trust was so high that they were able to share things about themselves at a level that just really amazed me. At the end of the evening, I was sure God had been among us.

I wonder if we create enough space in our churches for significant conversations? Everyone's so busy. How can we intentionally help people to enter into those conversations where God has a chance to show up?

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