Conversation As a Path to Transformation

We’re getting ready to celebrate in April our 8-year anniversary of meeting as the “Emerging Church Discussion Group” (a.k.a. the Charlotte Emergent cohort). The group has changed a lot over the years, but one thing remains the same: There is still a need for a safe(r) space for theological conversation, because most churches do not create space for it.

This is still true here in Charlotte (“the city of 1,000 churches”), and I suspect it’s true of the many cities where other Emergent cohorts are continuing to meet and discuss ideas and ask questions. No matter what persuasion the church may be — liberal or conservative (or somewhere in-between / beyond) — the fact is most churches are not modeled on conversation or participation but on coercion and capitulation.

The Virtue of DialogueBut I’m deeply encouraged by stories of faith communities like Englewood Christian Church on the near east side of Indianapolis. Chris Smith is the editor of the church’s Englewood Review of Books, and he’s the author of a new e-book that tells Englewood Christian Church’s story of transformation, entitled The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as a Hopeful Practice of Church Communities (2012, Patheos Press).

More than just re-telling the story of how one church was transformed through theological discussion and dialogue, Chris helps the reader consider how to apply the practices of conversation in other existing church contexts. It’s one more important method or path to transformation for churches that are stuck or declining to consider before turning out the lights or changing the church building into a discoteque.

Chris SmithI’m excited to be interviewing Chris Smith tonight on Twitter for this month’s (third Monday) #missionalchat. We’ll primarily be discussing the new e-book and the power of theological conversation, but we might slip in a little discussion of Slow Church, as well. Please join us online tonight starting at 9pm ET!


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  • Steve K.

    Here’s another great resource for practicing conversation in the context of faith communities (just in time for Lent!):