Fast-Talkers Need Not Apply – Hard Conversations in a Sound-Bite Driven World

politician-148838_1280I learn everything the hard way – are you like that?

I grew up in a world of sit-coms, bumper stickers, and snappy comebacks. In my teens and twenties, stand-up comedians, Late Night talk show hosts, and Saturday Night Live drove the social conversation. To be skilled at the one-liner was to be one of the cool kids, savvy, and in-the-know. I worked hard to be one of those comeback kids. Now, it’s a skin I have to shed when I’m approaching a hard conversation because there’s no fast way to transformative dialog.

Years ago, when I led a Bible study for a group of black belt women who hadn’t studied the Bible before, I was kind of stupid. We’d be in the middle of a karate class and one of the ladies would holler a Bible question across the dojo floor to me as we worked through our routines.

“Lori, I’m talking with John and he thinks God says we can’t have sex unless we’re married. Is that a serious rule? Where does it say that in the Bible?”

Or

“Hey, Lori, what’s the deal with hell? Are people who worship their ancestors going to hell?”

The part of me that’s not too bright would try to formulate an answer that could be shouted across a crowded room while executing an upper kata-155283_640cut-right hook combination. It’s a wonder I didn’t take more stray blows to the head from offended partners.

It’s taken me far too long to learn that while the world loves a quick answer, it has the satisfaction equivalent of a Dorito chip. One quick answer leaves you empty and searching immediately for the next. You can munch your way through an entire bag of Dorito Bible answers and still come away hungering for righteousness because answers aren’t really what we need. They don’t satisfy in the way that a relationship with Jesus truly does.

These days, if someone asks me a for a quick answer to a big question, I politely decline. Usually, the first thing I offer is another question or two: Why do you want to know what the Bible has to say about that? Do you see the Bible as a valid authority? If I explain the answer to you, will it affect how you live or think?

I didn’t invent this technique. This is how Jesus responded to the Pharisees and other powers of the day who weren’t truly seeking answers but only an opportunity to argue or to trip Him up. The powers that inspire those types of questions are still at work today.

coffee-692560_960_720If the question asker tells me they were just curious, I decline to get into a discussion but I do offer to buy them a coffee or lunch if they ever decide they’re truly interested in a biblical answer. This not only leaves them off-kilter (why isn’t this Christian trying to tell me Bible stuff when I gave her a perfectly good opportunity to shoot a verse my way?), it sometimes causes onlookers to wait for the questioner to walk away and then say, “So, what’s the answer, anyway? It may affect my life. I really want to know.”

If the original asker responds that they really want to know and that it might affect the way they live, I suggest, then, that we schedule time to have a real conversation so I can get to know them better and understand why they’re asking what they’re asking.

I then set to praying for that person. I learned that from karate.

When trying to break free from the hold of a violent person, there are small but essential actions called “softening up techniques” thatjudo-295100_1280 precede a big breakaway move. When souls are in the grip of the evil one, a conversation with a Christian can serve to facilitate them breaking away from that deceptive hold but prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit are essential actions that precede that conversation and make it effective.

To facilitate transformative conversations, we must be people who resist the temptation to offer fast answers to shallow questions.

If I want people to be impressed with me, I develop my wit and my rapid retorts. I spit out Biblical arguments and defenses like a slot machine long overdue for a payoff. If I want people to see Jesus, I get myself out of the way.

True spiritual seekers may initially come across like they’re asking casual questions or as if they don’t  truly care about the answers. If we snap something back, we’ll miss the opportunity to slow things down and notice the genuine hunger behind their words that will only be satisfied by pulling up a chair at Jesus’ banquet table.

Jesus warns us about quick words. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12: 34b-37

still-life-379858_640 The answers I hollered back across the dojo floor were about me. My heart was full of insecurity, the need to impress, the desire to be seen as well-schooled and ready for every question. The overflow of my heart resulted in a great deal of foolishness. But, Jesus has worked on my heart and taught me to pay less attention to me and more to the listener. Be less pressured by a rapid-fire culture and more in tune with the slow-soul-cooker of the Holy Spirit.

Be counter-cultural. Refuse to drive in the fast lane while having a hard conversation. Insist on pulling over at the scenic overlook, pulling out the picnic basket, and lingering over a thermos of coffee when discussing issues of the heart and soul.

Fast answers, like fast food, are consumed and forgotten. The rich feast God’s prepared for us is meant to be savored. Let’s provide people with savory, linger-worthy conversations.

**I’ll be following up with more posts on this topic with some practical, biblical principles for having more effective but Roeleveld Headshot 2015hard conversations. If your women’s group, small group, or ministry team is looking for support around this topic, contact me about scheduling my effective, hands-on workshop on The Art of Hard Conversations. I have just the mix of education, experience, training, and history of messing up that makes me the right person to guide your group into a more productive ministry of exhortation and encouragement. Just drop me an email at lorisroel@gmail.com and we’ll talk.

Get in on the conversation

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment

    The Conversation

  1. This just clicks with my heart. Thank you for posting it. I long for those slow-cooker conversations, and you’ve given me impetus to push for them more.