COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk by Dale Fincher and Jonalyn Fincher
Date published: April 27, 2010
Reviewed by Lynne
Often times, believers have difficulty sharing their faith in Jesus Christ because they aren't quite sure how to bring up the topic, usually for fear of offending someone. When conversations turn to religion, sometimes one of those involved throws out a question, a comment, or a detail that will try and trap the believer into showing ignorance of the Holy Bible or saying something to avoid the topic altogether. Many times, the believer may be left floundering for the right words to bring the discussion back on track, feeling helpless, ignorant, or foolish overall.
In COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS, authors Dale and Jonalyn Fincher expertly share how they have managed to ward off or deflect blows from the enemy, through personal experience, without losing their friends in the process. They share tips and techniques that can help other believers share their faith, their relationship with Jesus Christ, without rocking the boat, upsetting anyone, or destroying relationships.
Dale and Jonalyn Fincher, are a husband-wife team who speak nationally through Soulation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping others "be appropriately human". Although I am not sure just how much we, as believers, should tolerate other religions, COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS is still a gentle tool that will help people be respectful of others and their beliefs, invite others to share, cultivate what they consider an appropriate attitude of tolerance, and avoid Ã¢â¬Ëbuzzwords' that will stop a conversation cold. Above all, Finchers share ways of talking about Jesus Christ as a unique spiritual leader.
Learning what Finchers have to say of how to genuinely engage people in meaningful spiritual conversations, as Jesus did, is an excellent and rewarding way to educate ourselves on how to do this, since many believers have all had these sorts of conversations at one time or another.
Finchers share much of their experience and learning over the years, which may be greatly beneficial to all believers, or to just anyone interested in how to be "appropriately human". However, my own experiences with witnessing have more to do with people watching what I do, how I behave, or with me just sharing what I know about God and of what He has done in my life. I praise God publicly, talk about Him in my everyday life, knowing that another person's curiosity may open a door for me to share Jesus with him or her. Boldness is sometimes the key to sharing about Him, not necessarily tolerance or gentleness, in my opinion. Jesus meets people right where they are at, and His Spirit guides and leads us in meeting them as well. He guides us in our conversations, too. I don't necessarily worry about a person's religion or beliefs. I am just myself, sharing the light of Jesus to those around me.
COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS, however, is a gracious book relevant for today's world, especially with the mixed pot of various religions and cultures out there, and I highly recommend it. Regardless of how believers share their faith and love for Jesus Christ, there are many avenues we can use. Finchers' experiences work well for them, I'm assuming, which is why I recommend this book. Any information we can learn, to adapt to our own walk with God, is always of benefit.
COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS shares ways to read the Bible, too, if one is struggling with that and needs some direction.
For any believer who seeks to learn how to witness with more effectiveness and understanding, then COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS is well worth a read. I found it enjoyable, interesting, and full of refreshing insights and wisdom.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions's 16 CFR, Part 255.
This book has a healthy dose of apologetics but stresses that knowledge without Christlike love is usually not very effective in reaching the lost.
This book talks about the importance of recognizing the value of every person and learning to really listen to others. It also talks about not being sidetracked with non-essentials when sharing with others the hope we have in Christ.
It gives great advice about how to read the Bible to get the most out of it and gives examples of the dangers of misusing scripture.
The authors make it clear that they believe homoerotic behavior is a sin, not same-sex attraction. I think this is a good point.
They mention that they view women as equal partners in marriage and church roles. They then give examples of notable women in the Bible, but they make no attempt to address 1 Timothy 2 or Ephesians 5, beyond saying that scholarly Christians disagree about how these passages should be understood. This portion of the book would be much stronger if they had taken the time to explain how these passages support their view. Since they don't, it comes across as just their opinion.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent book that deserves a more attractive title! I highly recommend it!
Jesus walked in both love and truth perfectly. When truth is given without love, it can do more harm than good (as this book correctly points out). However, the same is true when love is presented with a downgraded truth. To me this is where this book fails. The apostle James spent much time showing us what love looks like, but never dismissed truth regardless how unappealing it may have been to the sensitivities of his culture. Nor did any other disciple. This book is great at elevating love and pointing out the mistakes of those who take an overly legalistic view of the gospel but it seems to be somewhat influenced by liberal theology.
I liked the "manners" and underlined several great points. Overall the book gives the impression that real love meets people where they are. That part I totally agree with. However, it inconsistently offers a sub message that "real love" is totally inoffensive, hip, and culturally savvy. It's loaded with the premise that we need to be like the culture in order to save it. To me the church as a whole already looks so much like the culture we live in that from an outsiders view, there is no desirable distinction. Watering down truths (even social ones) along with a general biblical-illiteracy has aided in setting our cultural adrift.
We know that all Christians sin, but the authors repeatedly and sympathetically affirm a close friend as a "homosexual Christian". Can anyone really live, practice, and laud unrepentant sin and be Christian? Can I? Can one serve two masters? Is it real to call Jesus Lord while simultaneously rejecting God's teaching? This is not about homosexuality any more than any other hypocritical double life. It seems to me, affirming people in their sin will make me more popular but it is not the most loving thing I can to do for them.
Ps- I would recommend Christopher Yuan's book (Out of a far Country), for a good balance of love and truth on homosexuality. I would recommend Ravi Zacharias' book (Why Jesus) regarding a balanced approach to Buddhism & Hinduism.
I read this book several months ago. I've been so bothered by it that I decided to write a review.
When I was done reading it, I kept asking, "Where are the examples of people coming to faith in Christ through their philosophy explained in this book?" I might be wrong, but I don't recall one example shared in there stories of anyone coming to faith in Christ through their relationships and conversations. So where is the evidence that this works? Why should I listen to them and do things the way they do it?
Many were saved in the 1st century (thousands recorded in the book of Acts). This wasn't done by casually talking their faith and having close relationships without ever preaching the Gospel. The book makes good points about relationships and how to talk about your faith, but if you read this book, know that this isn't enough. The Gospel must be proclaimed. In the end, God's word says salvation comes from responding to Gospel of Christ. If you can get this book for free it's worth the read, if not... save your money to buy a real book on evangelizing.
When it comes to sharing your faith, do you operate chipmunk-style or coffeehouse-style? If you go the way of the chipmunk, you're on a mission to scurry out and spread the Gospel, then hurry back to your hole. It can be scary, tense, performance-driven, and guilt laden. (If I sound like I know this style intimately, I do. And it paralyzed me from talking freely about my faith for a very long time.) The problem? Most of the time you feel like a failure because sharing your faith with someone doesn't often result in an immediate change of heart. Leaving the well-traveled grooves of a life lived without God takes time and the work of the Holy Spirit.
But coffeehouse-style is different. Coffee Shop Conversations, by Dale Fincher and Jonalyn Fincher, brews up a fresh way to share your faith and a key component is something I was never taught to do when I learned the ways of evangelism: listening. "All people are like packages," write the Finchers. "God invites us to look beyond the outside labels and give people our attention. Jesus shows us how to open the envelopes of people's lives and know our neighbors beyond the roles they play. Like the wrapping, our bodies conceal our souls within. Each person holds unknown surprises, unique concerns, interests, and motivations. What's inside the packages we call people?"
So rather than seeing people as a project, a target, or a mission, we need to see them as precious and unique individuals who cannot be approached with a one-size-fits-all memorized technique. We need to be present, awake and aware in the moment, and primed to infuse even the briefest interaction with meaning. Coffee Shop Conversations' challenge to meet people in love, humility, and grace, and to strive to strike up meaningful spiritual conversations reminds me of what a powerful conversational evangelist once told me: "I choose to keep myself open and talk to people. I stop and listen and I care about their problems. Then, when I look in their eyes, sometimes_.sometimes I see a spark, something from deep inside that reaches out to something deep inside me. Then I know that they are looking for something more. It might not happen that day, or that week, or even that year, but I know that if we become friends, someday I will get a chance to share the thing that is most important in my life."
The FInchers describe this powerful intersection of souls as "looking beyond different beliefs and into people's souls to see our shared struggles." Because whether someone is a Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, or doesn't quite know what they believe, they bear the image of God are we need to treat them with value.
Besides challenging us in Part 1: Making Spiritual Small Talk to look at sharing our faith in a whole new light, Coffee Shop Conversations is an equipping book. Part 2: Restocking Your Tools includes engaging chapters on How to Read the Bible, Misquoting Jesus, and differentiating between different religious belief systems in One True Religion. The Finchers even unpack popular spiritual books such as The Secret, The Four Agreements, and a popular Oprah pick, Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. The last section is Helping Friends Home, and deals with common questions and topics that might arise in spiritual conversations, because, after all, some topics are harder than others. For example, the problem of pain and suffering is one that different religions handle with vastly different ideas on the solution.
Finally, coffee shop conversations are as much about learning as they are about teaching or sharing your faith. "We want this book to serve not merely as a collection of apologetic tools, but as a road map guiding you toward freedom to be yourself as you talk about Jesus. We hope you will customize your conversations to the unique gifts God has forged in your soul. May you develop your own questions and ideas to introduce others to the God of Israel. May you continue to be taught and humbled by the humans God places in your life." Coffee Shop Conversations is a great reminder that it's all about loving your neighbor, and sometimes that's easier, more effective, and a whole lot more fun in a coffee shop. White chocolate mocha, anyone?