From racial to sexual to theological differences… I have made a lot of great friends.
I’ve spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating sushi, and lifting weights with my friends. I’ve listened… and from time to time I’ve talked.
Over the last few years I’ve learned a few things, but perhaps the most important is something that’s been crystallized in the last few weeks.
Let me explain…
I am a heterosexual, conservative, white, middle class man. I have a set of presuppositions that I typically bring to any conversation. I have realized a problem though…
Many of my friends don’t have the same presuppositions.
If this is not taken into consideration, communication problems will ensue.
For instance, I base my decisions on what I believe God wants or doesn’t want. My friends who do not believe there is a God obviously don’t include Him in their decision making process.
Now here’s where the miscommunication happens…
In addition to being a friend, I am also a pastor. Every week I stand up and teach at Church180. I love being a pastor. I love teaching. I love talking about God and showing how His ideas work in our lives!
I make a HUGE MISTAKE if I assume that everyone in our church starts with the idea that there is a God… or that He is actively engaged in our lives. Not everyone believes this!
I’m realizing that if the church is not careful, we are going to be talking to a group of friends that have no clue about what we’re saying… because we’re not starting with the same set of presuppositions.
I presuppose that there is a God. I presuppose that humanity is made in the image of God but is broken by sin. I presuppose that Jesus was a real man who died for my sins, was buried, and resurrected to life three days later and now lives inside of those who believe in Him… empowering them to live lives of l0ve, courage, wisdom, self-control, etc.
I presuppose all of that. My friends don’t.
The result? Much of what I may say may not make sense to them… because we start with different presuppositions.
So how do we fix this?
Well, the last couple of years I have done a lot of listening. A LOT of listening.
I ask questions and then listen. I have listened to black men talk, gay men and women talk, atheists and agnostics talk… and I have learned… A LOT!
The more I learn, the more I realize I need to change my starting point in conversation and teaching from what I believe to what we believe.
No longer can I assume that everyone in the room has the same starting point as me. I must assume that many in the room will start with different presuppositions than myself. I must respect that/them, seek to find common ground, and start there.
How do I find common ground?
LISTEN! Listen to your friends who don’t believe, look, think, or act like you do… let them show/tell you what’s important to them… what they value… and start communication there!
We may be miscommunicating because we have not taken the time to listen!
To use the words of Steven Covey, “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.”