Doubters Wanted: Creating a Culture of Dialogue
This culture affirmed a lot of things for me. Some of the language and behaviors that Burke proposes I'm already practicing. I'm gifted in one-on-one dialogue with pre-Christians and discipleship of new Christians. Where I struggle as a leader is in sensing the culture of the rest of the church and training other people in skills that I've honed.
One of the personally encouraging points of this chapter is that Burke used the example of John the Baptist to say that it's okay for people to have doubts. That to doubt does not mean you don't have faith. I preached this exact idea last Sunday.
Here are a couple of good quotes. "How many people have the stereotype that Christians 'love' them only if we sense we can get them to be like us or believe what we believe?" Ouch
"Because of all the baggage and lack of trust in our post-Christian world, people need to be engaged in dialogue."
"Questions, doubts and struggles are not the antithesis of faith. The opposite of faith is a decision not to trust God."
Burke's challenge to pastors was to give up the desire to control others (I'm a control freak) and to entrust their spiritual journey to God. To understand that we're all on a journey even those who have yet to take that first step of faith. That we're to create a culture of listening and interacting, asking questions as often as giving answers. This was the way of Jesus. He didn't try to control, he simply asked and provided guidance. He often painfully watched people walk away from him. It hurts me when this happens, but I must be open to the possibility. We're not in the business of controlling people.
Here are two more great quotes:
"Jesus would often look at the trajectory of a person's heart and either confront or congratulate him."
"Creating a culture of dialogue does not mean you never confront wrongdoing or challenge people with truth. It means you respect the will and opinions of the other person. you seek to listen as much as you speak and encourage where you see the work of God's Spirit. And at times, when you sense the promptings of God's Spirit, he will nudge you to confront or challenge. When he does, it is your responsibility to not hold back speaking truth, but to speak it in love."
I can think of a lot of examples where I've had the types of conversations described in those two quotes. The question for me as a leader is how do I reproduce that type of skill in dialogue among the congregation? To be honest, I'm not exactly sure. I know that last Sunday and this Sunday's message are modeling a commitment to journey and dialogue. I can also hold onto the belief that we eventually reproduce what we are. If I continue modeling dialogue, it will eventually take hold of some people and be affirmed in those already practicing it.