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How to run a The Conversation

The Conversation is an event which engages unbelievers in a discussion about topics in which they already have an interest and that Christians have something distinct to contribute. It seeks to raise the importance of the gospel in people’s minds by demonstrating its relevance in everyday life.

The latest Mission Impossible film being made in the UK features a speeding train driven onto a bridge, at which point the track unexpectedly stops and the train spectacularly crashes into a deep ravine. It’s a classic action movie scene and can also be a frequent fear in evangelism when friendships, carefully formed and running along well, suddenly crash.

Sometimes the crash can be provoked when a friend is invited to an evangelistic course or event before they are ready to listen and engage. Sometimes it can simply be because we’ve shared our faith many times and struggle to know how to talk more about Christianity without starting to sound like a broken record with no other interests.

The Conversation is an evangelistic event which aims to engage unbelievers in a discussion about topics in which they already have an interest and that Christians have something distinct to contribute. It brings insight of the Christian worldview into daily conversation.

The Conversation is like a TV current affairs programme. Several elements can be included:

  • Talks by keynote speakers giving different perspectives on the topic
  • Pre-recorded interviews with experts
  • Vox-pop interviews with members of the public
  • Discussion by audience members (perhaps during a refreshments break)
  • Panel discussion led by a skilled facilitator
  • A question time

The Challenge

One reason people don’t get very far in their investigation of Christianity is an inbuilt suspicion of any sales pitch, free offer or truth claim. People are wary of being drawn into something; they fear being duped and prefer negotiation over indoctrination.

Therefore people shut down out of self-preservation when they come up against evangelistic events presenting them with a whole lot of truth in a ‘take it or leave it’ style, or when they hear ‘we’ve told you the right answer, now let’s discuss how to correct where you’re wrong’, or when they think they’re coming to a social evening and an unexpected talk is suddenly presented.

Our challenge in evangelism is therefore to bridge the gap in people’s thinking by demonstrating the relevance of the gospel to their daily lives. Establishing gospel relevance is the missing link between building gospel relationships and seeing a gospel response. We don’t have to make the gospel relevant but we do have to show people why it’s relevant. The Conversation bridges the gap between chatting to a friend about faith and then being ready to investigate Christianity by attending an evangelistic course.

We don’t have to make the gospel relevant but we do have to show people why it’s relevant.

The Conversation is a discussion event that allows different views to be expressed by different people and the ‘secret sauce’ is having a Christian give the view on the topic from a biblical worldview. By contrasting this with other views, the distinctives of Christianity shine through. The fact that Christianity is based on a story of God and of who we are, what we’re here for and where we’re going is a compelling alternative to views where there is no God and no ultimate meaning, purpose or justice.

Topics and Examples

There are some examples of main talks and panel discussions featured in previous events available at www.theschooloffaith.org.

Topics that we’ve covered include: superhero films, happiness, mental health, identity, photography, architecture, robots & AI, design (featuring Tom Dixon), television, the global financial crisis.

Later this year we’re due to cover: work in a post-COVID world; the value of everything.

The events are positioned as:

  • Informative – presenting a topic in a well-researched, coherent manner
  • Topical – starting with the issues people are already talking about and allowing them to pose questions to the panel during the question time
  • Social – with discussion time during the event and over a meal afterwards

Why do it?

The Conversation demonstrates the distinctives of a biblical perspective and the foundational principles underpinning the gospel message. It therefore:

  • Gets past defeater beliefs or suspicions about Christianity that cause people to shut down by looking at a topic from several angles and allowing people to compare and contrast beliefs to see which is most plausible.
  • Takes unbelievers and their beliefs seriously. At The Conversation we make a point of inviting secular experts to have a say, either through pre-recorded video interviews or by coming to the event itself to be a speaker or panel member.
  • Equips church members to engage in similar conversations with their colleagues and friends as they learn how to apply biblical knowledge and answer the questions their friends and colleagues are asking.
  • Makes our Christian life visible. After the presentation, the evening continues with a meal so that people can continue the discussion. In addition to building community and relationships between our members, it creates a relaxed and easy atmosphere in which our unbelieving friends or colleagues can get to know our Christian family with whom we share life.
  • Puts faith back in the public arena. Inviting a friend to The Conversation when the topic is of interest to them not only shows that we’re interested in the things they’re interested in, but it also demonstrates that, as Christians, we live every aspect of our lives in the context of our faith.

For more information on how to run The Conversation, such as running orders and video clips, please email the author, Andrew Baughen, schooloffaith.info@gmail.com.

Andrew Baughen

Andrew Baughen is an Honorary Visiting Fellow at Bayes Business School, Director of The School of Faith (theschooloffaith.org) and Assistant Curate of St Mary Woolnoth in the City of London.