Most every tour of Israel includes time to experience the Sea of Galilee. The guides will inevitably help the tourists to imagine Jesus intimately talking to His disciples along the shore. It’s nearly impossible to be there and resist pondering what subjects were talked about and what casual conversations may have transpired at that special location. We wonder … how vital was this time and these discussions in developing the Apostles’ boldness and courage later in their ministries? What role did these intimate conversations play in the transformation of these men into the new creatures who literally turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6)?
Small talk, discussion, chats by fireside or in coffee shops – interchanges such as these, some brief, some lasting for hours, some scratching the surface, others much deeper represent the life-changing power of conversation. I have great memories of both observing and participating in conversations with great men. I wish I could relive those moments. I’d like to hear them again, to glean the wisdom, profound inspiration, and historical context they were so casually pouring out. Ahh, to hear them again. It is interesting how we gain inspiration and strength during these moments, and it is often mysterious how those conversations come back to us and encourage us, bringing to mind a word, a phrase, or quote spoken to us at just the right time. Through laughter and sometimes tears, specific conversations change us forever and create memories we can never forget.
My parents’ lives were accented with endless visitors in our home and car drives to visit with others. The list would include many well-known ministers, gospel singers, and even some notorious characters of their era. They loved to talk scriptures while wolfing down cold cuts on homemade bread and drinking very hot coffee. In a certain way, listening to those conversations was as important to my own spiritual life as was the preaching and Bible teaching I heard.
Working with young men and women for more than three decades in an educational setting, I have noticed a desire for conversation, especially at this present moment. There is a craving for personal and intimate exchange about what really matters. It’s a dual challenge. On one side, the grey-haired among us must re-engage, enter again the coffee shops, sit at the dining room tables, and the spry young minds have to recognize the relevance of these interactions.
In honesty, I don’t think we can survive without it. We cannot teach this generation to live solely fueled upon the emotion that comes from experiencing only spiritual mountaintops. We must commit ourselves to the discussions, to the study, to the exchanges that will ultimately lead to transference of the whole Gospel that we are committed to as Oneness believers. There is a need for resolute affirmation of the Apostolic doctrine and dedication to the unrelenting defense against all compromise.
Preaching is indispensable. But, in contrast, intimate, personal conversation brings a unique closeness beyond preaching. It opens a path to explore one another’s ideas and thinking. It exposes the weaknesses in our human logic and reasoning. It reveals the heart: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). The times when we are the most likely to feel safe, to feel unity and togetherness are when our hearts come together. And, when we are assured that our hearts are together we can accomplish great things. It requires closeness, vulnerability and honesty. Are we really on the same page? Are we still walking together? Is there genuine agreement? What constitutes true revival? Are we becoming too reliant upon our human abilities and talents? How much is too much human exaltation among ourselves? These are real questions, with real endpoints. They deserve real reflection and sincere candor.
We must be assured that we are moving in the same direction, advocating the same doctrine, holding to the same Great Commission, affirming our passion for the truth, and listening carefully to the needs and heartbeat of the saints of God who are walking in holiness and free from the love of the world. This will require that we listen and be willing to hear one another’s hearts.
Perhaps the best way, or at least one way, to assure our unity in these perilous times is for my generation to sit unhurried at the table detailing the past with genuine hearts. And … the young generation needs to receive an invitation to that table that they might listen and hear the incredible stories of the fathers and mothers who established the foundations, raised millions of dollars, turned on the lights of Apostolic churches coast to coast and around the world, who fought the good fight, and who are still preaching holiness and the Apostles’ Acts 2:38 message without compromise, without fear or favor, and without self aggrandizement.
Bring the youth to the conversation. Sit with them by the sea. Let them hear the old tales, the victories and the defeats. Tell them about the unique men and women who performed exploits. Be real. Recall your losses, your disappointments, the empty wallets, and the persecution. But, don’t forget the divine provision, the miracles, and the keeping power of the Name. And, above all else, let them know that you are with them, beside them as together we walk through the opening days of the greatest moment in human history! Command them (Genesis 18:19)! Keep the faith!
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called,
and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).