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Choosing Civility Over Insanity. You Can Do It!

by Joani Schultz

What’s happening to our country?

These days, the political rhetoric shatters around us like broken glass on a stone floor. And we’re barefooted. Ouch!

Not one person I talk to likes what’s going on. They’re disgusted. And mystified. Why can’t we have civil conversations?

That said, I beg you to join me in bringing civil, Jesus-centered conversations back to our culture.

Recently, I struck up a conversation with a stranger at a Christian conference. We chit-chatted about our work. That’s when I mentioned Lifetree Café.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a conversation cafe,” I explained. “It’s a time and a place where people talk about relevant life issues and faith. We tackle anything—cancer, does prayer work?, Muslims, gun control, immigration—anything.”

He sat back. “Wow. Nobody does that.”

“I know. It’s amazing,” I said. “We set ground rules, so nobody shouts or screams—or throws tables or anything. It’s incredible what God does in these settings all over the country.”

He looked incredulous. “Really?”

Four values people long for

My new friend couldn’t imagine that in our hostile, volatile, polarized climate, we actually invite people to explore such divisive topics.

But that’s what we’ve been doing for the past seven years all over the country through Lifetree Café. And it really works!

Here’s why:

We set a friendly tone by having a facilitator seat people in groups of four with new or old friends.  Then we begin the guided discussion at every Lifetree Café by stating these values:

“You’re welcome just as you are.”

Everyone takes a deep breath. Okay. You’re welcoming me as I am, and you’re not judging me?  (Jesus drew people to him with open arms.)

“Your thoughts are welcome. Your doubts are welcome.”

They are? You mean it’s safe to actually say what I think here? Even if I disagree with everyone around me? (Jesus welcomed dialogue and tough questions. He typically asked the most thought-provoking questions of all. Fearlessly.)

“We’re all in this together.”

I really don’t like being alone. And there’s something life-giving about community and seeing strength in diversity. Like Jesus talking about being “one” with him.

“God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.”

I may or may not feel that close to God right now, but when I’m honest, I wouldn’t mind more of God in my life right now.

Miracles do happen

When people hear and experience those words, God goes to work. Conversations are civil, bathed in respect. Believe it or not, when led with care (and a few ground rules and affirmation), people actually rise to the occasion. Miraculous stories emerge from the group. Even if they disagree!

If you’re saddened, disgusted, tired, or frustrated by the lack of civility and understanding in our culture—and you want to do something about it—I challenge you to start a Lifetree Café.

Lifetree Café offers a proven model for bringing all sorts of people—believers or not—together. Simply follow the tested discussion guide and present the story on video designed to spark discussion. Then lead people in surprisingly civil conversations on topics people want to talk about—topics that bring God into the conversation.

If you feel as if you’re walking on shattered glass these days, Jesus might be nudging you to make a difference. By starting a Lifetree Café, you can provide an extraordinary haven for sharing in your community.

Let the light of Jesus turn shattered glass into stunning stained glass.  With his power you can turn insanity into civility.

Don’t believe it’s possible? I’ve collected hundreds of stories of lives touched by Lifetree Café. Our book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore: And How Four Acts of Love Will Make Your Church Irresistible records many of them.

Each story reminds me of John 21:25: “Jesus did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”

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