The Gentle Art of Hard Conversations – and Coffee

coffee-692560_960_720As a nation, we need to start having some seriously hard conversations. This was true before last Tuesday but now, it’s not only true, it’s obvious.

What is less obvious is that this is an opportunity for the church to lead. Who better to guide people through hard conversations than an entire family of believers who have had to learn to talk about challenging topics like hell, sin, guilt, and brokenness and still show up together for bread and wine?

Oh, we’re going to mess it up. That’s a given. I hear you talking back to me even from my side of the computer. Something inside you just clenched up and you began arguing with me. What are you doing, Lori? Don’t give our brothers and sisters in the church encouragement to have hard conversations! That’s a recipe for trouble! That’s a sure-fire way to create problems, turn people off to the gospel, and create hurt feelings! What are you thinking?

I get it. I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty misguided Christian change chats. They usually start with an invitation for coffee. coffee-1583559_640You’ve had one of those invitations, haven’t you? “Are you available for coffee this week? I just want to chat.” You no sooner have your spoon in the sugar bowl when you suspect there may be razor blades in the lemon squares. The other sister in Christ wants to chat, all right, but the topic is all about how you need to change and she has a detailed list of how that should look.

Yes, I know, we mess up, often in monumental ways, but according to our God, that’s no reason to stop trying to get it right. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 ESV

And, we are not without help! The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ empowers the church as the church dwells in Christ. We have the very Spirit of God to teach us how to shut out the noise of the world and get real with one another. When we sit together to have hard conversations, He is present and if we pay attention, He wants to instruct us, to impart grace, to bolster truth, and to supply love.

joy-of-life-654536_640There are also people in the church who have been messing up these hard conversations for so long now (I’m one of them) that we have a lifetime of experience making conversational mistakes and now, by process of elimination, we actually know something. We’ve spent hours listening so on this topic, we’re just bursting to share. There’s probably one of us in your vicinity but in case there isn’t someone local to you skilled in the gentle art of hard conversations, God gave me this blog.

I’m getting up in years so I can’t give you a lifetime of messy wisdom in one post but here are three things we need to do to prepare for the task at hand (more posts will follow):

First, we need to surrender all. Yup, just like the old hymn. You’ve probably had experience surrendering some so start there and keep going until you have nothing left to surrender. Tell Jesus you’re willing to yield your ego, time, talents, schedule, agenda, false notions about others, fear of making mistakes, insecurity, and all the ideas about what you thought ministry would look like to be used by Him in the lives of others to have hard conversations that lead to truth, redemption, healing, and the furthering of God’s kingdom.

Second, we need to aggressively pursue humility and fearless love. There’s no room for a sense of superiority, a condescending tone, or an unloving attitude if your goal is to have hard conversations that lead to breakthroughs in relationships between God and people ormountain-climbing-802099_960_720 people and people. Yeah, this is going to feel a little like scaling Mt. Everest (this I know from backbreaking experience) but we must appear before God so regularly and so openly that we have a true perspective on ourselves that fosters humility. And, we need to ask Him to fill that yawning chasm left by our extracted ego with His boundless, sinewy, all-sacrificing love. This love will facilitate a loss of self-consciousness that will allow us to maintain that humility long enough to engage in some life-changing dialog. Start by ruthlessly confessing unforgiveness, hardness of heart, judgment, prejudice, and arrogance at every hint of them in your mind. I’m still working on this step so if you’re already done, go on ahead; I’ll catch up.

Third, we need to make ourselves available to and vulnerable before God on a regular basis as preparation for making ourselves available to and vulnerable before others in the midst of hard conversations. Through studying His Word, prayer, meditation on Scripture, regular times of worship, service to others, giving, practicing silence, and sitting under sound instruction, we show notepad-926025_640up to have hard conversations with Jesus that prepare us to be used by God in the lives of others. We will be able to have effective hard conversations because God’s had them first with us – and we listened, even when it hurt.

Oh, and it will hurt. You know that, don’t you? When God wants to change us in order to use us, He does so from a space of love and grace but He doesn’t concern Himself with our comfort or with cushioning us from the truth. And the memory of the soul pain will linger so that we are more sensitive to those sitting across from us nervously spooning sugar into their coffee.

God designed us to live, to love, and to engage others in powerful, messy, life-altering conversations that lead to relationships that contribute to transformations that wake us all up to the realization that the best thing that ever happened to us was finding ourselves orphaned in a basket on the doorstep of a loving, truth-telling God who took us in and made us a family. Together, we can learn how to face the truth, to tell it, and to hear it.

Who’s in? Trust me, you don’t won’t to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity!Lori 2016

**I’ll be following up with more posts on this topic with some practical, biblical principles for having more effective but hard 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 Gentle 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.

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2 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. If we can do this —– Looks like Jesus to me.
    I don’t want to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m in — God help me.
    I Look forward to your follow-up posts.
    Thanks, Lori.

  2. Lori,
    Students at a local university are taking a stand. http://www.omaha.com/columnists/grace/grace-from-a-desk-at-uno-three-friends-send-a/article_9dfbff5e-7921-5815-833d-3e22365ca497.html
    I’m not big and muscly like these guys, but I want to speak out for those most vulnerable. I want to be God’s salt and light in this world.