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Starting the Conversation

Several years ago those attending Synod Assembly received buttons which read: "I am an evangelical. I share the good news."

I'm a realist. I'm a Lutheran, and I don't share much of anything about my faith.

I admire people who can talk freely about their faith, about how God has had an active hand in their lives, about how their lives turned around when they accepted God. They have a freedom of speaking about faith which is awesome.

I also admire people who can start up conversations with anyone, about anything. My mother-in-law was like that. She could get someone's life history in five minutes in a store check-out line. My husband is like that.

I am not. I come from a very non-chatty family.

It really shouldn't be hard to have conversations with people. People love to talk about themselves.

They just need the right question to get them going. People can and will divulge an incredible amount of information about themselves. If they're asked the right questions.

Why do we have problems asking that "right" question? Sometimes we're so focused on what we think the next question should be that we don't listen to the answers we're getting. Sometimes we think we can't ask personal questions of people we've just met. Sometimes we're just not curious.

At St. Stephen's we are in a wonderful position to practice one-on-one conversation skills. In addition to the people of our own congregation, we have the opportunity every Sunday to get to know the people of New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church which is sharing our building space. We have Bible studies which allow people to share amazingly personal things. During Lent we gather on Wednesday evenings for dinner and conversation.

Church is the safest place in the world to have a conversation. There should be no judgements, just the opportunity to share and to be heard.

Kathy Wagner noted that if we can't learn to have conversations with the people in our own church building, how on earth do we expect to be able to go into the neighborhood and talk?

One of my favorite prayers asks God to "Be in the heart of each to whom I speak, and in the mouth of each who speaks to me." What is understood, though not said, is "Be also in MY heart and in MY mouth."

Get a conversation going with a stranger. What would you like them to ask about you? What question would get you talking? Ask them that question. Listen. And ask more.

- Ann Warner

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