The [Unofficial] Art of Conversation

“In my opinion…”

A statement that I have used waaaay too much in my life!

Having an opinion can be a blessing and a curse. I’ve heard many quotes about opinions, but the two that have stuck with me are:

Opinions are like buttholes, everyone’s got one and they stink.

And

Your opinions about leaders and situations don’t matter unless you are in the position to do something about them.

Living in the coffee shop world, I have learned the art of striking up a conversation with anyone. I would daily be pouring lattes for world travelers, surfers, stay-at-home moms, college students, doctors, judges, pastors, and deckhands on fishing boats (to name a few).

Every guest in my shop is as unique as the other; and we meet every race, religion, tribe, and tongue. Learning how to find common ground and the ability to talk about almost anything can be a challenge and requires a determination to always be learning. As I thought about the “Art of Conversation” here’s a few steps that I have put into practice in my own life.

First, you need a foundation of taking time daily to grow spiritually and hone your craft. These two elements will be the open door to connecting with people. Being full of the love of Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit is #1 above anything. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Then, whatever your job, skill, or occupation is, seek to become the best at what you do. This is an instant contact point and easy conversation starter. If you say you’re a barista but don’t really know much about coffee, then the conversation has the potential to quickly crash and burn. With the ability to articulately explain coffee from a well of knowledge and understanding, you will gain ground based on your position as an “authority” in a subject. You can apply the principle of this scenario and apply it to your profession.

Second, become one that listens. Don’t just hear sounds, but be someone that has “ears to hear”. Really listen to people! Be quick to listen and slow to speak! It’s said that when you are talking you are not learning. There is no way to even know how to connect with others unless you hear where they are coming from. Only once you listen can you find the entry point. [Tip: I listen first for differences in speech, like accents. “Where are you from?” is an awesome entry point.]

Then, third, develop the discipline to acquire information from everywhere. You can glean from news headlines, look up definitions to words, study maps, read books, watch sports video highlights, obtain differing view points on politics and social issues, etc. Information retention is not only good for the sharpness of your mind, but it’s the gasoline to the vehicle (conversation) that helps to connect. I’ve had some refer to me as a savant. I wouldn’t agree with this, though I get what they are saying. I think the more accurate word is a polymath (a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas). But really, I am just a lover of people; and because of that, I want to become interested in what others are interested in!

Lastly, when you ask someone a question, fight the urge to interject and cut off their answer with your own views. This is probably the most damaging to any future conversations! When others view you as the one who dominates every conversation, then they will cease to converse. Cutting off sentences and thoughts are no bueno! I view my calling in life to be one that builds bridges and connects people—both with each other and with Jesus. Nothing can burn bridges faster than your smelly butthole… oops, I mean opinion!

Ultimately, we must be careful about how generous we are with sharing our opinions. My mentor in business would always remind me, “Loose lips sink ships!” When we are quick to share our opinions and not listen to others, we often miss out on opportunities to connect with them. I’m a firm believer that nothing happens by chance. Every person you connect with happens for a reason. Let’s become more masterful with how we connect with those we encounter every day!

Disciplining our mouths to only share our opinions when others actually ask for them is a great habit! This will make room for more productive speech, like talking about the love of Christ, encouraging/building up others, bettering your craft, and speaking TRUTH.

But, what do I know… this is all just my opinion! 😉

What say you?

I’m listening…

Steve

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Office vs. Position

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ… He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4:11, 12, 16 NLT)

Sometime I wonder if we are doing it correctly.

What is it?
You know, the whole paid church staff thing. Pastors, teachers, worship leaders, a full office of secretaries and administrative assistants, grounds keeping crew, janitors, counselors, media team…

It just seems that we got things all mixed up.

I struggle with wanting to get paid to “pastor.”

I know the Bible says that a worker is worth his wage. Peter and the others quit fishing and worked helping to establish the New Testament Church; and their needs were met.

But have we gone too far with it?

I opened with Ephesians 4 because it talks about some specific offices. These are known as the “Five-fold Ministry”. What is interesting is Scripture says they are given as gifts.

These gifts are designed to help everyone else sothey can grow the church.

We have taken something that is a gift and made it a position.

Now, Christians around the country show up Sunday mornings and are serviced. They pay Pastor, or the evangelist to grow the church. The teacher is paid to make the disciples for us.

Was this the intention? Were these gifts given so we could elevate them into the authority?

Is it possible we have lifted up man to the place of king, and the building of our churches (lower-case ‘c’ because I’m referring to the institution and buildings), rather than the whole body working together—equally participating and contributing—in order to lift up the King and the building His Church (upper-case ‘C’ because it’s referring the body of believers)?

I’m really not so certain anymore that we’ve got things properly ordered.

Thoughts?

Thoughts on post-retirement age

My 31st birthday is a week away.
It has been pointed out by many that I’m still young.

In my infancy as a “leader,” there are some things that I have observed, and some thoughts that I have been pondering.
These thoughts are based in my worldview (naturally), and may change over time.
But, with that said, the following is one of those thoughts.

    When I’m old, and at the point of mindlessness (I say that because I probably will be), I pray 2 things… okay, 3 things:

  • That I would be humble enough to admit it,
  • that I would have friends that loved me enough to tell me,
  • and that if I’m not humble enough to admit it, that my friends are bold enough to tell me anyway.

It’s difficult seeing people that are well beyond retirement (and by that I mean that you’d think they were already embalmed) holding on to the need to be heard…
… almost as if they’re afraid that their life will go unnoticed once they are gone, so they are trying to make a big splash on the way out.

These kinds of people make wild predictions, say very strange things that would normally go against their character, and struggle to understand culture.
They become so greatly removed from reality, that even their sound, biblical foundations can begin to crumble.

I had a pastor who was 72, and he was the sharpest 72-year old I have ever met.
We were like best friends.
He once admitted to me that he knew his time was coming to an end, and that he gets frustrated by older pastors who, in his words, “don’t know when to hang up the shingle.
He also told me that he hopes he has people who are open enough to tell him the same — that it’s time to hang ’em up.
(He was later diagnosed with a brain tumor, resigned from his position, and then passed away a year-and-a-half later. Still one of the greatest pastors I have ever known.)

It should be clear to you now that he has greatly influenced this perspective I have.
That, and the growing library of YouTube videos of more recent, well known TV/Radio voices that grow increasingly frustrating for the Church; who, in light of public statements, have to continuously defend Scripture and help others understand/filter their erroneous statements.

Would I be abel to give it up?
Would I be willing to simply bow out?
Or, would I go down with a fight, holding on to every little bit that I can for as long as possible?

I can’t really say how I will be when that time comes.
Right now, this is how I view it.

Maybe, if and when I’m that age, I will think differently.
If so, is that your cue to tell me to hang ’em up?

We’ll see…

Steve

P.S. I pray that Jesus comes back before then.