Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Book Review

Coffee Shop Conversations by Dale and Jonalyn Fincher (Zondervan, 2007)

This book is divided into three parts:  the first argues that we can and should find ways to naturally talk about our faith in small talk and everyday life.  The second part talks about some essential tools that people can use when talking about faith with others.  And the third part argues that there are only a few things that we should actually be willing to die for theologically, and that the most important thing is to introduce people to Jesus.

Overall, I thought the book brought some really important points to the table.  Like the Finchers, I believe that in this post-modern world, it's a mistake to convey that people have to believe a certain list of ideas in order to become a Christian.  Instead, we need to introduce people to the Person of Jesus Christ--he is the only one who has the authority and the ability to call people to follow him.  And many of the things that the organized church has stood for and against have been things that don't matter or that we can't know for sure.  There is a lot of room within the Orthodox Christian faith for a whole spectrum of theologies and practices, and to tell our friends they have to believe just like us to follow Christ is both wrong and ineffective.

They also argued that we need to earn the right to speak into others' lives.  Specifically, they say that "the only time we have a right to talk with someone and introduce Jesus is when we’re certain we see them as equally human, broken, and in pain like us. . . .Until we open up to two-way giving and receiving, our acts of charity, whether they be donating, witnessing, volunteering, dining with an argumentative couple, listening to a troubled teen, or striking up a conversation with a woman at the library, will remain drive-by acts of charity."  In this way, they encourage us to see people beyond the way we label them and as people who are made in the image of God and who are valuable to relate to and learn from.

So overall, if you have a heart and passion for evangelism, I think it's probably worth reading.  However, if you're looking to gain a skill set to help you talk about faith with post-modern, post-Christian folks, I'm not sure this is a helpful resource, for two reasons.  First, although the book is filled with stories of how the Finchers have shared faith and challenged the philosophies of their friends, if you have no background in philosophy yourself, you would not be able to figure out how to lead conversations the way that they do.  They are able to identify a worldview and philosophy and meet people within that to share faith effectively within that context.  And though I believe that we can all learn to do this, the book does not go far enough in truly identifying philosophies and practically helping the reader to know how to respond.

Second, there is no discussion of barriers to faith that aren't intellectual or philosophical.  In today's world where people are increasingly making decisions based on how they feel rather than what they think, a book that does not speak to the emotional barriers people have to faith is of limited usefulness.  Sadly, this gaping hole in the book is absolutely typical of the current conversation around evangelism.

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 Commission’s 16 CFR 255.

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