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Have you ever had the harrowing experience of being trapped in a social cul-du-sac on a first date with someone who just couldn’t stop talking about themselves? You threw out an innocent conversation starter, and forty-five minutes later finally managed to get a word in edge-wise. These are the notorious ego hogs who immediately suck all interactional air out of the room. Conversely, there are the total clams, killing genial conversational exchange with graceless ‘yes’, ‘no’ answers that contribute nothing to interpersonal revelation. It’s uncanny, really, how much a person may reveal of personality, character, morals and life values in short, simple, verbal discourse.

It’s true that people are generally better talkers than listeners, so my personal acid test is whether or not someone can reciprocate their attention on you with at least three basic questions in a twenty-minute span. If not, there’s a good chance they are rank narcissists who just don’t care, and probably never will. It’s usually a pretty clear indication of how they’ll treat you in the bigger issues of life. I confess to making major judgments about people (especially men) based on their tête-à-tête insensitivity. (You sir, are a baboon.) B'bye.

This year, I took on the task of Sunday Morning Live, the Bible-study section of Sunday Morning Service at our Church. I took an idea called ‘Speed Preaching’ on a little spin, with gang-buster results. The premise is based on the afore-mentioned speed-dating experience: a current cultural fad of having a brief, five-minute talk with a romantic potential before moving on to the next table. In Speed-Preaching, each participant is given twelve minutes to share the Scripture strongest in their personal life right now, the challenge of walking it out, and how it is changing their world. Of course, these guidelines have been interpreted loosely, and very personally, with some more of a testimony, and others more of a sermon, but the general responsiveness is astounding. As public speaking ranks higher in fear quotients than death itself, I was expecting mixed response, but out of twenty candidates, I had only one decline. What has emerged is the glorious truth that people are longing to tell their story.

In a mere twelve minutes, the speaker must let us into their world. It’s staggering how much information, verbal, and non-verbal, is conveyed in the vulnerability of these parameters. Although it may feel like it, we don’t actually get to know people very well through the brief contact of seeing them every Sunday morning. It takes years of working with others in ministry, on projects or weekly Home Groups to really penetrate the surface, and appreciate the difficult complexities in the life of another. The brilliance of Speed Preaching is that it allows us to expedite that long process somewhat. I’ve encouraged my little flock to be lavish with their encouragement and support as we pray and prophesy for those who have just shared. There has been such positive feedback about how much these intimate moments have touched the heart, and stirred up the love within our congregation. Thanks, God, for a great idea.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16 KJV

The Lord encourages us to be real, open and vulnerable with one another. This sounds simple, straightforward, but it is not. Honesty is expensive, truth illusive, and sincerity too often manipulated by the unscrupulous. To speak the truth in love is actually a radical mark of freedom few attain. We’re strangers, even to ourselves, hedging our bets with the information we disclose to others, and even playing games with God. We tell ourselves the stories we want to hear, the stories that make life bearable, instead of facing reality as it stands. When we are forced to do so, it’s amazingly powerful.

Jesus rivetted people’s attention with stories. He was a master at finding a folk reality and attaching a spiritual truth to it, making it unforgettable. Examples from everyday life became pivotal talking points and illustrations. He understood the irresistible power of drawing us in through homey, normal situations and dilemmas. He knew how to tell a story. One of the aspects that makes the Gospels so powerful is that Jesus didn’t just tell the story…He lived it, walking the earth with the rest of us. He took on flesh and blood in all its messy complexity, and left us with an example so powerful it impacts the humblest of lives. What is even more wonderful is that He choses to tell His story through us. Are we listening?

As for the saints that are in the land, as for the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Psalm 16:3 KJV

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