Ron’s #35: Coffee Shop Conversations by Dale & Jonalyn Fincher


Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk was a free offering in the Kindle Store for a short time. It was worth every penny I paid for it.

I enjoyed the premise of this book a great deal: People have a desire to talk about spiritual matters, so find ways to discuss them to bring a positive view of Jesus to the conversations. I think this is important in our evangelism. Often times, we are the ones who offend our friends and family, not the message of the Gospel.

“When our categories become more important than the people in the categories, we have become thoroughly modern adults who know how to justify our distance from our neighbor.”

“If we are eager to talk about Jesus’ sacrifice, we need to show them our own willingness to love them with sacrifice. We may find ourselves welcomed into someone else’s life when we lay down our sword of ridicule. Mocking others, even behind their backs, destroys our capacity to respect them when we speak face to face.”

“We’ve learned to bring up Jesus first and not our denomination, church’s name, or even the word Christian. Labels have baggage. We don’t want to be too quick to slap a label on others because we want to know them individually.”

I was reminded what I learned from Greg Koukl’s excellent book, Tactics, and it was indeed a good reminder. However, there was much to get in the way of the message in this book to make me not recommend this. I will list three of them.

The first is the writing style. One of my biggest annoyances is when two people co-author a book, and they both take part in telling the story. The Finchers go further in this by putting their name in parentheses whenever the person telling it switches. Annoying and distracting. It continued throughout, and I never got used to it. It seems amateurish.

The other was Jonalyn’s harping on egalitarianism (the philosophy that there are no distinct male/female roles in the biblical text. This is contrary to complementarianism, where male/female have different roles, but are equal in standing before God). She would offer mini-diatribes about it as though it was part of another book, but she was trying to cram it in here regardless if it were germane to the discussion or not. While I disagree with egalitarianism’s interpretation of key texts, I respect those who hold it and can articulate it well. Jonalyn is not one of those who can. Rather, it felt preachy and simple. In fact, my problem with this second point complements (pun intended!) my first criticism with the book. Jonalyn tries so hard to fight her way into equality that she not only needs to insert her name whenever she can, she also overshadows Dale’s stories. Ironically, her egalitarianism gave her a higher and more important role than her husband has in the book. Dale’s contributions are secondary to the story, and feel incidental to Jonalyn’s preaching.

To round out my criticism with the book is that while I love her focus on having important spiritual conversations, she seems to not have as high a view of Scripture as she has on conversations, whether about homosexuality or other world religions. Like the Finchers, I want to have important conversations about Jesus with those around me. However, I want to do that because of my love of Jesus, my love of others, and because of his love for them. All these reasons are grounded in the Bible itself. We are to be people of the Book, even those parts that we don’t like or understand completely.

If you are looking for a way to talk to others well and to encourage conversations on spiritual matters, skip this book and pick up Greg Koukl’s Tactics.

 

About Ron 173 Articles
I teach English and government in Okinawa, Japan. I love reading theology and fiction, and my52books.com helps keep me accountable. Reading with three kids under 5 is a bit of a challenge, but I keep trying to find ways to read more. My favorites writers are C. S. Lewis, Flannery O’ Connor, and Raymond Carver.

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