Letter #15: Don’t Debate…Dialogue

by Jonathan Haefs

Dear Jonathan,

I understand your frustrations with Bradley. From the way you described the conversation I believe I would have been frustrated too. Sometimes there is a point that just seems so obvious to you and you want for others to see it as well, but they seem blind or close-minded.

For what it’s worth…I agree with what you were saying. However, I do think you are missing the central issue of your conversation, namely, that it wasn’t a conversation. We both know that you were in debate mode, trying to prove your point and win the argument…you were not listening at all to what Bradley had to say.

Now, debate is not always a bad thing, but I wasted so much of my time in seminary arguing with others in such a way that only led to frustration and griping…not to fruitful growth. Jonathan, I would encourage you…

debateDon’t debate…dialogue.

You are surrounded by so many people who think differently than you…take advantage of that! When talking through issues such as baptism, the Lord’s supper, ecclesiology, justification, homosexuality, creation care…or even the “big” one…Calvinism and Arminianism, honestly listen to people with the intention of learning from them!

I’m not telling you to change or let go of your convictions, but to change your conversational restrictions. Be open to discussing things. This will stretch you and bring true growth.

I was so blessed, in the latter portion of my seminary career, to deepen my convictions while also widening my appreciation for people who don’t share them. I wish that had been my approach to conversations from the beginning.

When you enter into dialogue, state your thoughts clearly and concisely…then listen, take in what is being said, and don’t formulate your rebuttal while they’re talking. Wait until they finish, process what they said, and then respond in love. In this way, you not only set the tone for the conversation, but will actually get to a deeper place as your inviting disposition will likely lead the other person to open up and say things they might have otherwise held back.

Extend grace to your interlocutors and you might be surprised what gracious things the Lord will teach you through them. These are just some of the great gifts you receive when you…

Don’t debate…dialogue.

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

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