Over the last week I have had some conversations that each in their way have caused me to think because I engaged with the other person / people, heard what they were saying, responded and enjoyed the discussion. What I call rich conversations because from each I gained something important. Let me share a few:
I wonder if you consider the kinds of conversations that you have with others, at home, at work, where you socialise? Conversations can be quite throw away, passing the time of day and not really taking in much because we are mentally off to the next thing or texting / emailing at the same time as talking.
We are running an Alpha course at the church where I am the Pastor and the discussions after the meal and video are really good. Talking about things which, church folk often take for granted or assume that all other church folks understand anyway. The concept of the Holy Trinity and how you explain it was one such. And no matter the examples people use to try, it is for me something that is but cannot be adequately explained. A part of the mystery of God. But discussing it helped the group understand that not everything in faith has nice neat answers.
Then there was the discussion with a regular at the church on the nature and content of the New Testament, in the bible. It all seems the same, with the same themes was the starting point. The bottom line being that it seems we really don't need it all. However when we talked through what was actually there, the nuances and differences and what would be lost if you reduced it, the person wondered why we don't talk more about this in church. A bit of a challenge for me. But again a very useful conversation.
A last example was a chat at a minsters breakfast with another minister where we considered what people take in from a typical sermon and the way in which people seem all too often to dismiss what they don't like the sound of or the challenge of. It made me realise that one of the things I miss in Pastoral ministry is the deeper conversations that we had when studying for ministry at college. Perhaps I need to encourage these in church?
So different conversations, in various settings and yet each with gems for me to look into or learn from.
So much of Jesus' ministry was conversations with his disciples and would be disciples, encouraging, teaching, challenging, honing their skills so that eventually they would be able to go out on their own and spread the word. The gospels are full of the accounts of these conversations. Some dealing with very human things like who might sit alongside Jesus in heaven and who would be the greatest in his Kingdom, while others dealt with the need to be clued up and ready. One of the conversations that I love reading is that between Nicodemus, a religious leader, and Jesus. Nicodemus hears but cannot understand, he listens with a particular mindset and struggles with Jesus' words.
Often when we hear each other in conversation, we don't truly hear or understand. We come to the conversation with out own word filters, placing our own understanding on them rather than giving time to fully understanding what the other is saying and meaning. Rich conversations take time and focus and a desire to go deeper with them, to find the richness. Try it yourself, it is rewarding.