The best evangelists are those who can first define what people are already thinking and then say it for them as they would like best to say it. This is especially the case for the revoicing of marginalized and repressed voices.
The issue is not to avoid controversy or argument. The issue is for nudging to foster dialogue more than discussion. “Our duty is not to see through one another, but to see one another through.” How many of us, when we come away from a conversation (or a sermon), come away with agreement or disagreement, like or dislike? Or do we come away with new insights, fresh understandings, refreshed connections, and varied ways of looking at things, regardless of whether there is agreement or disagreement?
There is an important difference between dialogue and discussion. Dialogue comes from Greek dia (through) and logos (meaning). Dialogue is the use of words “through,” which flow and flux “meanings” that issue in new perspectives of dissolution and metamorphosis that can only be gained from shared conversation.
Discussion comes from the Latin dis (apart) and quatere (to shake). As Kay Lindahl notes, “It has the same root word as percussion and concussion—to break things up.” A dialogue aims to open things up. A discussion aims to break things up, to answer a question, or to win an argument. Too much evangelism has been discussions aimed to persuade and produce results and not dialogues aimed to explore and connect. A dialogue aims for clarification and connection. A discussion aims for victory and conquest.
As I read this part of the book it was a reiteration of something I’d studied before, but until now had not really learned. I appreciate the clarity Len Sweet offers with this because it’s a game changer on how I should approach my conversations…as a dialogue or a discussion.