Archive of Letters to My Friends:

Churches are conversations

  

Churches are conversations

January 2001

By the Rev. Jon Rieley-Goddard

Dear friends,

     Markets are conversations.

     Agree?

     Disagree?

     Need some context?

     I didnít make up the assertion that markets are conversations. I stumbled across this idea in the Linux Journal, a computer magazine that I subscribe to. Doc Searls, the writer who advanced the idea that Markets are conversations, was talking about the marketplace, and he was talking about how companies and corporations develop and sell products to meet demands in the marketplace.

     Markets are conversations.

     Not statistics.

     Not the killing fields of capitalism.

     Not zones of profit or lose.

     Not cold corridors of exploitation and greed.

     Not faceless junk-mailings to the masses.

     Markets are conversations.

     Traveling salesmen make money because they create relationships through conversations, not because they necessarily offer a better product for a lesser price (though this is a plus if you can offer it, too).

     The person who gets the sale is the one who asks for it, and asking for the sale works well when there has been a connection through conversation, when there is a relationship between the seller and buyer, when the one knows the other, and the other knows the one.

     You might wonder where Iím going with all this ... . Listen further:

     Churches are conversations, too, just as Markets are conversations.

     Churches are not doctrines.

     Churches are not budgets or tithes.

     Churches are not committees or boards.

     Churches are not sanctuaries from The World and Its Evils.

     Churches are conversations.

     Which is also to say, Churches are relationships.

     And to go a step further:

     Churches grow when they understand themselves as places of conversation.

     Or, if you will, churches grow when they nurture relationships among persons.

     In other words, letís change the way we talk about Church. Rather than atomizing the situation, and addressing the bits and pieces of the puzzle that we call Church, letís simplify.

     Churches are conversations.

     Churches are relationships.

     You have a part to play in all this, and in fact if you refuse to play your part, the picture will have little odd-shaped gaps that chart the history of your silences, because Churches are conversations, and the only one who can communicate effectively through silence is our God.

     We must speak.

     This means that you continue to do what you are already doing.

     This means that you continue to talk to those whom you love to talk to when you are at church, and when you are on the phone, and when you write a friendly note of encouragement. This also means that you look for new persons with whom to talk, both persons you know and persons you donít yet know, because Churches are conversations, Churches are relationships.

     This also means that you can listen to your inner voice of comfort, and that you can stay inside your comfort zone. If it is natural for you to reach out to strangers, do so. If the idea of reaching out to strangers frightens you, do what you can: You can convey openness to strangers by your body language as well as the words you say or donít say. And do maintain the relationships that you already have, because Churches are conversations, and Churches are relationships.

     This is your assignment for the coming year:

          * Have conversations with friends and strangers.

          * Maintain relationships.

          * Create relationships as you are able.

      The rest is Godís work.

 

          Blessings and peace to you,

          Pastor Jon

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