I like a good murder mystery; a well-developed fictional story with a murder plot and lots of unexpected twists and turns.
As I have been pondering the topic over the past couple of weeks, I am thinking about the mysterious demise of Mr. Conversation. He’s been bludgeoned, poisoned and starved to death in living rooms, conference rooms and bedrooms. He’s died on the phone and in front of witnesses. And if all the suspects were to be arrested, you and I might be behind bars today.
I have used all three of those previously mentioned murder weapons.
Bludgeoning: This is a totally one-sided conversation. As a preacher/writer accustomed to 30-minute uninterrupted monologues or 500-word uninterrupted columns, it is not surprising that I might need to give some intentional focus to being able to carry on a good conversation.
Mrs. Sweetie has been sitting in church pews listening to me preach for 29 years. Amazingly enough, she is not interested in hearing a sermon at home. In Vancouver last month, we visited with a pastor who is starting a church on the campus of the University of British Columbia. He teaches his students the 20-20 rule for conversations. Talk 20 seconds about yourself and let the other person talk for 20 minutes about herself. If we take that approach, the conversation has a great chance of balancing out.
Poisoning: This is allowing toxic substances like gossip, criticism, humiliation and whining to overwhelm a conversation. “How are you?” is a bad question to ask a toxic conversationalist because you are going to walk away feeling worse than when it started.
Starvation: This is when we allow outside distractions to steal the conversational opportunities before us. When our TV show or the work we brought home consume our entire evening, we run the risk of conversation starvation. When we spend the entire mealtime answering phone calls and text messages rather than engaging with our dining companions, starvation is setting in.
The phrase “encourage one another” appears three times in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25). I am not aware of a more effective way of doing that than by healthy conversation. Our lives matter to God and should matter to each other.
Last week I invited you to conversation with me, especially in response to what you read in this column. Before I mention a couple of opportunities, let me encourage you to please, please, please continue reading in the newspaper. Whether it is my column or something else you read, let the newspaper know what blesses you. They often get bludgeoned. Some encouraging conversation directed toward them would be a welcome respite.
Now, some quick ways to converse with me: You can email me with your questions or comments at email@example.com.
To get a conversation started around something you read in my column, you can post a comment on the blog version at www.lifematterstoday.com. My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/thatllpreach. I’d love to hear from you.
Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association headquartered in Decatur.