No matter how we identify ourselves in relation to faith, we all belong to this Living Room Conversations community and share the unifying purpose of working to bridge the divides between us. Here are a few questions one Boise Christian community asked of themselves as they put the spirit of Living Room Conversations into action:
How do we hold to our identity as followers of Jesus in a way that creates the kind of community we desire?
What if the local church could be a place that was safe, that was caring, that was a beacon of light and of hope?
To all of us who care about the answers to these questions: watch this video!
The asker of these questions is Chad Estes, who’s leading the new program of Living Room Conversations at Vineyard Boise Christian Fellowship in Boise, Idaho.
I interviewed Chad for this issue of our weekly update. “Aren’t you guys supposed to be good at this?” is what Chad Estes remembers Joan Blades asking Vineyard Boise’s leadership about a year ago, “not in a challenging way, but just in a questioning way.” Joan was in Idaho to lead discussion of the documentary American Creed, in which Living Room Conversations is featured, at Boise State’s Civility Symposium. (You’ll find this question at the 27-minute mark in the video.)
At that point in the video, you’ll see how struck Chad was when Joan pointed out that
For a Living Room Conversation to work, it takes certain values: it needs to be a compassionate setting. It needs to be peaceful. It needs to be loving. People need to be patient with each other.
Chad was struck by these values matching up precisely with what are called “the fruits of the spirit.” This moved him to agree to lead Living Room Conversations at Vineyard Boise. He believes that
One of the burdens that the evangelical church faces in America is how it is perceived by people who don’t attend church or hold to our belief system. Even when we have the best of intentions we can come across as highly opinionated, dogmatic, and morally superior. More often than not this shuts down any real communication and ability to connect to someone outside our tribe.
The leadership of our church has been taking an honest look at what isn’t working for us and what is holding us back from our vision. Unfortunately the ways others have experienced us could be the very thing that is holding us back from creating the kind of loving community that we desire. Living Room Conversations provide us with a unique tool–we don’t have to set aside what we believe but we can learn to have good, safe, mutually beneficial conversations. This is a tool we need!
I closed our interview by asking how Living Room Conversations fits into Vineyard Boise’s mission. Chad responded,
Our mission statement is Make the invisible God visible. This means we want to live our lives in such a way that others experience the love of God in real and tangible ways. We don’t want people to think they know what we believe based on us trying to convince them of it; we want them to experience our faith by the way we are living it out. A great place for this to start is face-to-face respectful conversations around tables, in living rooms, at coffee shops and hopefully even at our church. The Living Room Conversations model gives us a great framework on how to have these kind of conversations.
We want to thank Chad and Trevor Estes at Vineyard Boise for their faith in us and holding us accountable to our own mission:
We hope for a world in which people who have fundamental differences of opinion and backgrounds learn to work together with respect–and even joy–to realize the vibrant future we all desire for ourselves and our families. Through applying and adapting our conversational model, we hope participants will build relationships that generate understanding and enable collaborative problem-solving.
We also want to thank the filmmakers of American Creed, and the Boise State Civility Symposium, and Idaho Public Television for helping plant this now-flowering seed–and also to recognize the work of our Faith Communities Partner Reverend Linda Taylor in nurturing it!
Beth G. Raps, PhD