Small Conversations

By Justin Rossow

Sid is good at her job; and her job right now is to help unfreeze my frozen shoulder, something that has to be painful in order for it to work. So with a river of icepicks shooting down my arm as Sid wrenches my shoulder into another awkward position, I asked the diminutive Indian woman what she does for fun.

I know; it seems like a strange question to ask in the middle of a torture session, but I was simply taking a conversation that started around God’s Word into the normal places I go every week. You see, we’re practicing small conversations at my home congregation right now; nothing too heroic or too involved. We’re just trying to develop the habit of keeping God’s Word on our minds and in our mouths as we go about our everyday lives.

We had been talking about delight in my staff meeting right before PT, so I just kept that faith conversation going. I didn’t cite chapter or verse. I didn’t invite Sid to worship. I didn’t even tell her where I work! I just slipped the thing we were talking about in Bible study into the small talk of the rest of my day.

It turns out, Sid and her fiancé like to travel for fun. And Sid also likes to cook as a form of recreation. I used to live next to some wonderful Indian women who loved to cook all kinds of curry and other Indian dishes, so I asked what she enjoys cooking most. Tacos, she said. But they have to moist; not like the dry ones you get at restaurants. And she has a goal of making ravioli from scratch. In fact, she was signing up for an online class to learn how.

The conversation didn’t go the way I expected, but I enjoyed hearing about what brings Sid joy. I even told her how cool it was that, while we started talking about playful delight, she immediately went to delicious delight—two different kinds of delight I had been reading about in a book just that morning.

Then it happened: Sid asked me the name of the book.

Now, I have been in PT at this location off and on for six months, and I don’t think any of the regulars know what I do for a living. I haven’t mention Jesus or the Bible. It just hasn’t come up. But all of a sudden, this person who was just filling in for the day, this woman whom I just met (and who was in the process of what felt like removing a limb from my body) was asking me specifically about Delight! Discipleship as the Adventure of Loving and Being Loved.

So I told her the title and a little of what the book is about. I said religious people sometimes experience faith as a burden (that got a small grunt from Sid). I mentioned how I thought Jesus intended a relationship with Him to be full of exploration, and adventure, and curiosity, and even fun.

And you know what? Sid didn’t ask to be baptized. She wasn’t in church on Sunday. We just had a nice conversation, she finished tearing my arm from its socket, and we went on with our daily routines.

But something was happening inside my heart during that whole interaction. I was practicing seeing my ordinary life through the lens of the part of God’s Word that had already invaded my day. And I was trying to get that word into my mouth in an ordinary conversation. I saw delight through Sid’s eyes; and that helped me see Jesus more clearly, too.

You never know how or when one of those small conversations will crop up. But I don’t think that faith conversation in physical therapy would have happened at all if we hadn’t just been talking about it in a staff meeting at church. It takes some getting used to, but keeping your eyes peeled for God’s Word in your week will make you more likely to see God’s Word active in your life outside of Sunday morning.

So we’re asking people to practice looking for some small way to have a faith conversation outside of our regular church meeting times and spaces. Any kind of “faith conversation” can feel daunting, especially outside of worship! I mean, what comes to mind when you try to imagine a “faith conversation”? Knocking on a stranger’s door to ask if they have a saving relationship with Jesus? Handing out religious tracts at a football stadium? Traveling halfway around the world to serve the lowest and least?

While these kinds of activities can bring real benefit, the idea behind a small faith conversation in your ordinary week is much simpler. The goal of these conversations is less about reaching out to people who don’t know Jesus, and more about planting God’s Word deeper in our own hearts by interacting with others. (We follow Jesus better when we follow Him together.)

Sometimes those simple conversations may lead to a deeper engagement, but that’s not really the focus. The main idea is simply this: if we talk about what we are learning or hearing from Jesus with other people in our everyday experience, God’s Word will become a more and more natural part of our ordinary lives. And when God’s Word is a normal, regular, expected, natural, obvious part of our normal lives, some really amazing things start to happen.

You don’t have to quote the Bible.

You don’t have to sign anyone up for church.

You don’t have to make a Gospel presentation.

Just be curious about how something you are hearing in God’s Word right now will connect to the rest of your regular week. The watch for what happens next. Sometimes looking for something is all it takes to see that it was there all along.

The weekend after I met Sid in PT, one of our Elders was eager to tell me about a small conversation he had during his ordinary work week. The Elders had just been talking about looking for those faith conversations wherever they crop up, so he was ready to lean in when one unexpectedly came his way.

Heading into his work building, he ran into a coworker; a fellow Christian in a rather secular environment. “How are you doing?” our Elder was asked. His response of something less than delightful. But when he asked the same question in return, his coworker replied: “I’m great! My family loves me, my faith is strong, and I am gainfully employed!”

Or something like that; I have forgotten the exact details. The point is, my friend the Elder was excited to tell me about this almost throw-away conversation because it made him immediately recognize God’s Word in a common, ordinary setting. So right there in the entryway he took a small next step to engage. He said to his coworker, “You know what? How about we pray together before we go into work?”

And they did.

No mountains moved.

No voice came from heaven.

Nothing spectacular or miraculous took place; just two guys, heading into their ordinary day job, with schedules filled to overflowing, taking time to say a quick prayer before getting back to the grind.

On second thought, maybe that is rather miraculous…

So we’re practicing small conversations at my home congregation right now. I’d invite you to run that experiment, too. You don’t have to do anything too heroic or too involved. Just begin to develop the habit of keeping God’s Word on your mind and in your mouth as you go about your everyday life.

Take a word or phrase from your weekly worship or from your time in God’s Word and carry it out into the rest of your week. Ask a question, any question, of a neighbor or friend. Be curious about the people around you. And be on the lookout for ways in which God’s Word shows up in common, ordinary places.

My guess is, as we train ourselves to connect God’s Word to our small conversations, we’ll gain a deeper appreciation of what Jesus is up to in our lives, certainly in Sunday worship, but during all the other hours of our week, too.

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