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conversation social media speech talking technology Uncategorized

The Art Of Conversation

Neal Pollard

With conversation, when both are active listeners, you are exchanging ideas. Along with this, there’s body language and tone of voice which give clues to what the words mean to the speaker. You negotiate, reason, affirm or deny, and continue through these patterns while discussing any number of subjects. This process is invaluable to building relationships, working together, and even evangelism. For all its advantages, social media lacks almost all of those dimensions.

MIT professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle, in the book Reclaiming Conversation (New York: Penguin, 2015), makes the case that we are talking more than ever but we’ve lost the art of conversation.  Turkle observes, “From the early days, I saw that computers offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship and then, as the programs got really good, the illusion of friendship without the demands of intimacy” (7).  What demands? Paying attention, building trust, having empathy, and giving thoughtful responses (as opposed to rude, reckless ones). 

I’m not trying to militate against the use of social media platforms, texting, or emailing. But the more we gravitate toward those to do our “communicating,” the less we successfully navigate the more difficult, yet more rewarding, art of conversation.

When we read the Bible, we are struck–from beginning to end–with the pervasive importance of dialogue and conversation. From Genesis one, where we read the Godhead’s conversation, “Let us make man…,” to Jesus’ conversation with John in Revelation 22, conversation is indispensable. Not only did God create interpersonal relationships and the vehicle of conversation to build them, but He models it throughout the pages of Scripture.

This article seeks to inform, teach, and even persuade, but it is only one dimension of communication. One might argue that other forms of communication are not only necessary, but in many cases will be more effective. The snippets and soundbites of social media postings, much more condensed and lacking context, while being pithy and thought-provoking, are no substitute for what happens face to face in the tension, hard work, and unpredictable dynamic of conversation. Conversation necessitates practice, attention, and mental engagement. 

From the dawn of time, God observed that it’s not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). As suggested by the title of another book by Turkle, Alone Together, we find ourselves increasingly isolated from others and more ill-equipped for building real life relationships. The antidote to that is simple and so attainable.

Let’s engage people more. Let’s resort more to making real life connections and less to hiding behind screens. Let’s look for opportunities to do this with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Let’s connect more in real life. As with anything, the more we practice the better we’ll get at it. 

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Photo credit: Michael Hite

 

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Apple authority Bible leadership morality standards technology

“Moral Leadership?”

Neal Pollard
This is how Seth Fiegerman at Mashable summarized new Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent moves, an array of social activist “statements” that includes an Apple gay pride parade and declaring himself homosexual, calling to attention to perceived environment and climate change, and associated causes. Fiegerman also synonymously dubbed his activism as “moral authority” and “staking out moral ground.”   The evocative title of the article is “Apple’s new moral era begins” (6/8/15). As a happy “Macster” with an iPad and iPhone, I am not a frustrated PC user looking for an opportunity to rage against the Apple machine.  It is what it is.
Whether or not you agree with Cook, he is most certainly assuming definite moral leadership.  Indeed, it is not overstating things to say he is “moralizing,” as vehemently as any preacher, professor, or reformer could.  In his powerful position at one of the most influential companies in the world, Cook is spending his leadership capital in a profound, definite, and specific way.  However, it is not as if he invented moral leadership.  Anyone with any influence in any point in history is wielding moral leadership, staking out moral ground with at least some degree of moral authority.  The defining question is, “Whose morality?”
The Bible defines morality.  As the product of a transcendent, all-powerful authority, the Bible is the only legitimate standard of morality.  It outlines a specific way of living, using words like godliness (see especially 1 Tim. and 2 Pet.), moral excellence (2 Pet. 1:5), detailing a moral lifestyle (cf. Gal. 5:22-23), and the like. It also forbids a specific way of living, using terminology like immoral and immorality.  Its standard is specific.  Consider a few examples:
  • If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is immorality (Lev. 20:14).
  • Divorcing your wife and marrying another woman is adultery, unless your wife is guilty of sexual immorality (Mat. 19:9).
  • A man who had his father’s wife was guilty of immorality (1 Cor. 5:1).
  • Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of gross immorality and going after strange flesh (Jude 7).
  • Along with a covetous, idolatrous, drunk, or swindling person, God says to avoid the immoral (1 Cor. 5:11).
  • Immoral men are placed alongside homosexuals, kidnappers, liars and perjurers as contrary to sound teaching (1 Tim. 1:10).
  • Esau selling his birthright is called immoral (Heb. 12:16).
There are many other examples of Scripture defining morality, often by pointing out its opposite.  People who use their influence to lead people to do the immoral are certainly exerting moral leadership, but it is leadership contrary to the heart and will of God.  There is a vital need for you and me, as those who love and trust God’s Word, to exert true, moral leadership, to exalt His morality.  A saying attributed variously to Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, and Charles Aked, is very familiar to most: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”  May we step forward and exert moral leadership that honors God.
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confession media sin technology

Why Has There Been A Decline In Public Responses?

Neal Pollard

While I am certain that there are those who will say that they are still seeing as many public responses in their assemblies as ever, most will observe what I have observed.  As I think back to my childhood, public responses to the invitation were commonplace—nearly every service.  When I first began preaching, public responses requesting baptism or public repentance by members very regularly occurred.  Steadily, particularly in the last five to 10 years, such responses have declined. The burning question is, “Why?”

One might point to the growing influence of the world and its impact on the heart of hearers.  One may point to weaker, less distinct preaching.  One could talk about how potential responders will feel judged or condemned by the others present.  One could speak of the philosophies and world views of the age, whether secularism, naturalism, postmodernism, or emergent theology.

Though these are no doubt factors, I am not fully satisfied with them.  Weren’t these stumbling blocks in place in previous generations.  The names of the philosophies may have changed, but they were there. Consider another theory.  Are we losing the traditional, real social connection and fellowship of days gone by as we lose ourselves in the virtual world of social media (some of the same desensitizing factors could apply to TV and movies, too)?  Before you dismiss this theory, consider some reasons why I promulgate it.

  • Some use social media as their “confessional” or front pew, where they confess their failings in marriage, attitude, speech, or actions.
  • On the other hand, social media outlets—particularly those having photos as part of their makeup—create an artificiality.  We don’t post unflattering pictures (and may plead with those that tag us in them to delete them), don’t generally admit to weaknesses of character or anything that may make us seem inferior to others (financially, socially, intellectually, etc.).  Image replaces integrity.
  • Increased time on social media, cultivating that virtual world and its relationships, may be robbing us of real-time, real-life relationships.  We often neglect those in front of us for those we’re “visiting” by phone or tablet.

How might this impact public responses?  Are we meeting the needs of James 5:16 and 1 John 1:9 via the virtual world? Are we afraid to show vulnerability, need, or weakness, lest we be deemed “inferior”?  Have we desensitized ourselves, losing the ability to be “real”?  There may be huge holes in my theory, but I suspect there is at least some truth to it.

What can we do to reverse the trend? Hopefully, giving it some serious thought is a start.  We cannot reduce ourselves to mindless minions who are consumed with the superficial while disconnecting from the authentic.  We must renew a dedication to fellowship and relationship, now more than ever!  The people on Pentecost were disturbed enough by clear, divine teaching to make that known in the clearest terms (Acts 2:37).  Let’s help the church be a place of real connections and relationships so we can help each other when spiritual needs exist.