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Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk (Book Review)

Too much of what passes as “evangelism” in the contemporary church is nothing more than religious propaganda.  Armed with a “gospel track” comprised of a series of biblical verses (invariably taken out of context, i.e. “The Roman Road” or “The Four Spiritual Laws”) a would-be evangelist hits the road, with the intention of getting people to “make a decision” about Jesus (with typically means reciting a “Sinner’s Prayer” in which one ascribes to a set of suppose propositional truths presented in the propagandist literature.

As a pastor, I want to engage my friends and neighbors in conversations that include discussions of faith.  Further, I want my congregation to also engage their neighbors, family members, co-workers, and friends in such conversations.  But I do not want those we are engaging to think that we are just looking for another notch on our gospel gun – or another “member” to my parish, ready to sign on the dotted-line.

I want my spiritual conversations, and those of my congregation, to lead to meaningful conversations.  I want to hear about the spiritual journey’s of others.  I want the process to foster respect, friendship, and relationship – not the animosity or indifference that usually follows such discussions.  I want to be able to talk with people about Jesus without all the religious lingo that so often prematurely ends the conversation.

For this reason, I was particularly excited to have a chance to read and review “Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk” by Dale Fincher and Jonalyn Fincher.  The tag line particularly intrigued me.  “Discover the Fine Art of Sharing Your Faith…Without Losing Your Friends.”

This book is written by two unapologetic evangelicals.  That was also an exciting  aspect of this book.  Thought I am somewhat progressive evangelical who has grown weary of what passes as evangelism, I still have not lost my passion for sharing the wonderful news of God’s grace, revealed through Jesus.  I have a strong passion to see people discover the reality of that grace, responding to it with faith, trust, confidence – as disciples (followers).  Basically I got this book looking for something that could “save” evangelism from the slick marketing approach that has seemed to dominate it for most of my adult Christian life.

This book was not a disappointment.  Knowing that many in my parish feel a bit intimidated by the marketing approach – the impersonal, just the “facts,” sign on the dotted-line, join the club approach – the Fincher’s provide an approach that is conversational, open, friendly, and undemanding of the “other” in the conversation.   The Fincher’s have obviously felt the same discomfort and this book is a wonderful response to their frustrations (and those like them, who long for something more meaningful in evangelism than mere propaganda.

If you get your hands on a copy of this book, you will learn that it really is possible to share your faith without losing your friends.  The content not only reveals the ways you might be coming on too strong, as well as approached that can keep the conversations going in meaningful and engaging ways.

If you approach the book as a convinced “evangelical” you will appreciate the theology and heart of the book, even as they challenge many of your preconceived notions about the methodology of evangelism.  If you do not consider yourself a part of that camp (or see yourselves on the outskirts, like me) you might find some of their theological assumptions uncomfortable.  Still, I believe you will still  appreciate the author’s  general attempt to lead the evangelical movement toward a more relational and friendly approach to sharing the gospel and bringing people to a place of trusting in Jesus.  (If you are a convinced liberal leaning, social action oriented, inclined toward universalism type Christian, you might want to save your cash or by something else.

 

Disclaimer: This book review was written after receiving a complimentary copy of the book from the “Speakeasy” blogging network. I was not required to write a positive review, but only to express my own honest opinions. This information is being disclosed in accordance with regulations from the Federal Trade Commission.

Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk
by: Dale Fincher
publisher: Zondervan, published: 2010-04-27
ASIN: 0310318874
EAN: 9780310318873
sales rank: 151012
price: $8.99 (new), $6.94 (used)

A 2008 study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life notes that the number of people creating their own interpretations of faith and culture is growing. Seems like there are as many different styles of faith as ways to order your latte. How does a Christian have normal conversations about Jesus without accidentally sounding offensive, bigoted or intolerant? You will find the tools you need for meaningful, tolerant, and respectful conversations about your faith with friends who don’t share your views. Forget the ‘fire and brimstone’ approach and the awkward insistence to get other people ‘saved.’ You will discover how to be yourself without alienating others. You’ll learn: How to walk in another person’s shoes. Ways to gently invite others to share. The buzz words that will stop a conversation cold. How to navigate today’s hot-topics. Tools to recover the true meaning of Scripture often obliterated by spiritual writers. How to talk about Jesus as a unique spiritual leader. You will discover how to invite people to become fully who Jesus wants them to be through this coffee shop approach to friendships in your community.

 

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