The Importance of Talking About Serious Subjects
Part of the blessing of being a pastor, theology nerd, and someone who loves worldview conversations is that I get to engage in countless conversations about difficult issues. Discussions ranging from matters of pastoral counseling all the way to debates about Critical Race Theory, Calvinism vs Arminianism, engaging other worldviews, and many more issues are a part of my normal life. As someone who has done a few things correctly in these discussions (shocker) and many things incorrectly (predictable) I wanted to write a post detailing a few pointers and guidelines around this particular topic. I am specifically focusing on how Christians can undertake this concept profitably in scheduled fellowship formats (i.e. Sunday school or study groups) in order to grow and mature as servants of Christ.
The key foundation underlying this entire post is that I firmly believe dialoguing about deep subjects in an enjoyable manner is a good and profitable action for Christians to take. Some will assert we should spend all of our time discussing less heady subjects such as sports, the weather, vacations, and where to find delicious delicacies for our personal delight and consumption (a.k.a. favorite restaurants). Others believe Christians should almost exclusively focus upon serious matters like the atonement of Christ, understanding the book of Daniel, and comprehending how tall the steeple should be on a church constructing their building biblically!
What I am proposing is that it is beneficial to have both lighthearted and serious conversations, but perhaps we have drawn a false dichotomy between the two. How about we actually make the discussion of intense subjects an enjoyable experience for the believers? Meaning that when Christians gather together to talk about how we should respond to the LGBTQ movement, it should be both a profitable period in the sense that truth is shared and knowledge gained, but it should be enjoyable since believers enjoy the fellowship of one another. There is nothing wrong with sharing a few good jokes, having some laughs, and diving into the deep end of serious conversation all at the same time. Those who only joke around will miss out on the growth of intentional discussion. However, others who are so intense they never smile or delight in such conversations are not finding the richness of the joy in biblical Christianity. An experience combining joy and depth is not only incredibly delightful to participate in but also enriching for those involved while guiding everyone to gain a deeper understanding of the subject at hand in a way that accords with Christian love, charity, fellowship, and commitment to the truth.
Keys To Creating Such An Environment
Many individuals are probably agreeing with my general observations as to what is profitable for Christians discussing big subjects. However, several of you are probably wondering how do we as believers go about actually making it happen in our Sunday School classes, small groups, and other formats? Well, here are a few keys. First of all, if you are the leader of the conversation group, you need to invest time in the subject, and if you are not the leader, try to spend time understanding pertinent issues at hand before the scheduled time. As an illustration, let’s say that in the month of July, a congregation decides to have every Sunday School teacher lead about Critical Race Theory at the start of the new year in January. That means a teacher has several months to get their mind wrapped around this subject. Hopefully, the elders will help them in this process, and there should be primary source material available. In other words, don’t just say, “CRT is defined as _____ according to my reading of various authors.” Instead, write down pertinent quotes and give the definition from original sources. That action serves to ensure everyone is on the same page as to exactly what you are talking about in the first place.
Make certain that you are aware of the various positions CRT proponents advocate for and against. Have quotations in your notes around key question points which might come up. Be sure to have quotes from those who promote CRT so that you can accurately present the ideology before critiquing it from a biblical perspective. Also, have quotations from leading opposition of this theory which will help you to be able to understand how to give answers to the errors within CRT. After you have undertaken the study, list out pertinent questions and the general flow of the conversation you want to have so that you allow the group enough general freedom to steer the discussion in different ways while also staying on track to hit each specific area you would like to touch on throughout your time.
Having such a structure will help you to be able to relax during the conversation, which creates the enjoyable environment for others. You have done your homework, know the facts about the subject, outlined your process, thereby equipping yourself for a productive discussion. Therefore, you are free during the discussion as the leader to simply help others, facilitate good conversation, and bring Scripture to bear on the topic. Because you have done so much background work, that will give you the ability to stay focused on ensuring the discussion is both profitable and enjoyable. If you were still having to figure it out during the discussion, you would not be able to target these aspects. For those not leading, but simply partaking in the discussion, if you hear before the event starts what is coming up on the docket for the class, take some time to educate yourself a bit prior to the conversation. Maybe listen to some podcasts, read a good book, and immerse yourself in Scripture to be able to understand the teaching of the Word of God. All of these actions will allow you to contribute more to the group, ask more informed questions, and even help others understand who have not had the chance to put in as much study!
Everyone partaking in the conversation should seek to treat one another in a way that honors the fact that we are image bearers of God and, as believers, blood-bought followers of Christ. Therefore, anger and resentment have no place in our lives. Neither does the idea which says all perspectives are equally valid because truth is based on feelings, not the revelation of God. We must honor the truth by seeking to push one another to a deeper understanding of Scripture while also respecting one another by showing human dignity even when we disagree on various subjects. It is perfectly fine to disagree with someone in a clear way, yet it should be done in a humane fashion with gentleness and respect. Such an attitude promotes better conversation because individuals understand they can actually disagree with one another and not try to burn each other at the stake. However, they also comprehend truth is important, so they will push one another, hopefully coming to a biblical conclusion in the end!
The Necessity of Christian Conversations
I remain firmly convinced Christians need to be coming together to discuss issues of theology, worldview, culture, politics, family, church, and so many others. We need to sharpen one another and help each other grow in the faith. Many believers are trying to understand all that is going on in this chaotic world of ours right now. It would be a poor testimony for a local church if they had to undergo this process alone without any elders or believers to walk with them. Believers need faithful preaching from pulpits, clearly expositing the Word of God. They also need the fellowship of the saints coming together to discuss such issues with joy in the Lord and one another.
Our focus as Christians must be to discuss these issues with a heart-centered around knowing what the Bible says, doing what it commands, and seeking to spur one another on in love towards these goals. Having serious and enjoyable conversations about important subjects during times of fellowship and gathering allows us to grow in all of these ways. We should be patient with one another and kindly push one another towards Christ with a heart of humility. May we as believers seek to model what it means to interact with one another in a way that glorifies Christ and is honoring to the truth of His Word!