What makes a really good talk or conversation?
Have you ever thought about the importance of talk and conversation in the Bible? The very first stories of the Bible see God speaking aloud to, and within, God’s own self; words which speak out the creation as it comes into being. When the first human is created, God continues the conversation of creation by bringing creatures for Adam to name (Genesis 2.19-20). The relationship between God and the creation and with the first humans is played out in this good conversation and flow of learning and meaning, interrupted by the humans’ disobedient actions, – the thing they choose not to tell God about, and keep secret!
Jesus too, spends much time in conversation, and in it, we can hear echoes of that gracious creative speech of Eden, as Jesus creates powerful connections with those around him, not just with his disciples, followers and friends, but people who would not expect him to speak to them at all. Some of those conversations are challenging, some explanatory, some questioning, some comforting, but all invite response, inclusion and change. Yet we also see Jesus writing and being silent, changing the tone, creating space.
Scientists tell us that one of the most amazing things about being a human being is the range of our ability to communicate with one another. For most people that involves talking, listening and responding. There are also all kinds of non-verbal communication, such as the pre-verbal chatter of children, the signed conversations of deaf people, and the way we communicate by writing, touch or gift-giving and hospitality. Sometimes, we are painfully aware of the need to learn or re-learn to communicate effectively, such as when we are talking to someone whose first language is not the same as ours, or communicating with someone whose neurological development is different or impaired.
So, if we are to think about what it means to be a truly relational church, bound together by love, kindness and friendship, it’s worth thinking a little bit at the start about how we talk with one another and how good conversations contribute to good and fruitful relationships.
Some questions for discussion and reflection
- Think about all the people you have communicated with today. What was the best conversation you had with someone?
- What kinds of difficult conversation do you dislike? Making a complaint? Getting an appointment? Trying to sort out a problem on the phone? What makes such conversation difficult and what’s the best way to improve communication?
- Some people find small talk and general conversation difficult, whereas others just love chatting. What do you think is a good conversation for those different kinds of people?
- What do you think people who are able to hear and speak learn from those who cannot hear or cannot speak?
- What do you think the people in the pictures are talking about?
- What makes for a good conversation in church? How many different kinds of speaking and listening do you think there are in church circles and in worship, and which do you enjoy most?
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