Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

Conversation Does Change Lives


Today is October 7, 2010 and it’s my birthday. It’s therefore a day when I consider the life the Lord has given me, thank Him for it, and rejoice that He has sustained it for as many years as He has.

But did you know that there are others thankful for life and promoting “life” today? In Australia, today is “RUOK? Day” (pronounced, “are you okay”). “RUOK? Day” is a campaign aimed at suicide prevention.

RUOK? Day

I first read about “RUOK? Day” last weekend in a local newspaper. Their philosophy is simple. Over a cup of coffee ask someone, “are you okay?”, and you may help prevent their small problem escalating to the point where they consider suicide. They have a website and they’ve received endorsements from celebrities such as Simon Baker (from “The Mentalist”) and Hugh Jackman. Suicide is a serious problem in our society, and as Christians knowing the true value of life and the seriousness of eternity, our hearts should break at what appears to be en epidemic of our day.

Why am I bringing this up?

We’ve lost the art of conversation.

Without wanting to trivialise the issue of suicide, I want to side step it for now. You see, as I was considering the simplicity of the “RUOK?” campaign I realised something; Australians have lost the art of conversation. We’re no longer (maybe we’ve never been) a culture where the channels are open to have serious conversation about topics of substance, especially if it’s of a personal nature. For example, I was raised with the idea that you never discuss money, politics, or religion. Australians may talk a lot, but not a lot about the things that matter. Even worse, for many today the family and community structures enabling meaningful conversation aren’t there.

What hit home to me was that from my observation it’s not only the average Aussie that has lost the art of conversation; many Christians have too and especially me. Give me a room full of Christians with ears and I can talk theology till the cows come home, but place me at a local watering hole where men and women are having some time out after a busy week at work, and what would I say? Could I hold a genuine conversation with someone who doesn’t know which lapsarianism position they hold to?

Why does this matter?

Conversation does change lives.

The spoken word is powerful. The world knows word of mouth marketing is far more effective than any television advertisement. Non-profits like “RUOK?” have recognised the power contained in a simple conversation. Conversation does change lives.

The Lord God has ordained that it is the “message preached” that will “save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21) and that “faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). Mouths and ears are central to people coming to faith. Not surprisingly many Christians will testify that it was through conversation that they heard the gospel, had the gospel more clearly explained, or was the impetus for them to come and hear the gospel preached from a pulpit.

Here’s an illustration.

Presently, I speak of Christ like many people eat.

Instead of a consistant, healthy diet, marked by quality produce that is prepared and cooked well, many consistently eat food that may be convenient, but that lacks almost any nutritional value. Several times a year, due to a widening middle, the kitchen pantry (larder) receives a clean out and all the unhealthy food is disposed of. For a very brief period there is a concentrated low calorie and high-nutrition diet. However, several weeks in – with one bite of a chocolate bar – those good habits are soon replaced with bad ones.

In a similar way that describes how I am when it comes to speaking of Christ and His Gospel. I fall into the convenient habit of not speaking about my faith with the unbelievers I come into contact with (that’s if I come into contact with any; it’s very easy to only move around in a Christian “bubble”). If I do speak with an unbeliever our conversation may be wholesome, but it lacks any spiritual nutritional value. Then, several times a year through the conviction of the Spirit and possibly an aptly timed sermon, I decide to change my habits. I go on an extreme diet from all “un-sanctified speech”. I do away with uttering a sentence that doesn’t have “Jesus”, “Cross”, “Sin”, “Grace”, “Forgiveness”, or “Repentance” in it. I bombard everyone I meet with “Jesus”, mostly in monologue fashion. Then after several weeks, I inevitably fall back into old habits.

So what am I going to do?

I’m convinced I need to have more conversations.

I’m convinced it is time for me to do away with impulsive “evangelism diets”, and by God’s grace, cultivate a consistant and healthy lifestyle of genuine conversation. Listening to people. Talking to people about their lives. Speaking to them about my life. Sharing with them what Christ accomplished in His life and in His death and resurrection.

I’m very aware that I’m not making the most of the many opportunities I have to engage in conversations with those around me. I’m very aware that often the desire for genuine conversation with those who do not know Christ is minimal; after all, they’re different from me.

If you’re nodding in agreement when you read that line, do you realise how arrogant that statement is. You and I are just like them, or at least would be, “but God” (Eph. 2:4a). The very fact that they’re different from us (not in Christ) is the very reason we should be involved with them.

As a result I’m missing many opportunities to openly testify of my faith and speak of what Christ has done, challenge opposing world views, and share my own world view. Remember though, if you’re not genuine in your conversation they’ll know it, and you’ll come off sounding like a used-car salesman.

Will you join me?

Will you join me in grabbing a coffee (or your beverage of choice) and having a conversation with someone this week?

Don’t just make it an October 7 thing, or a “this week” thing, but aim for a consistent lifestyle of healthy and genuine conversation. Quite the witnessing “cram” and instead share your life with those around you and be a true light for the gospel.

Take some time to consider the barriers that you may have erected between you and the world around you. Once identified, pull them down and then genuinely ask your neighbour, your work colleague, or that friend from school, “How are you?” Listen to their answer, and begin from there.

How we can do this better?

Communication skills are not innate. They are learned.

I need to be a better communicator, especially a better listener. Even if you have the “gift of the gab” you can always improve. So please, leave some suggestions on simple ways to begin conversation and then genuinely move from general life to matters of eternity. Those who don’t know the Lord do think about life and death, what’s on the “other side”, and generally don’t think that when we die that’s it. Let those around you think through and talk through these issues with you; if you’re not in conversation with them, how can they?

As well as suggestions I’d love you to share your experiences. Who have you spoken to recently?

Please leave a comment, discuss it on Facebook, or send me on a tweet on Twitter.

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