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Engaging in 'Sustained Dialogue'

God knows how, but instead of fleeing, I decided to talk to Dave about his views. I wanted to understand what was behind his theology. And, I wanted him to grapple with my grievances. Neither of us changed our opposing positions. But I came to realize Dave is not the villain I projected him to be. He is a man seeking to obey God the best he knows how; he is a father who loves his daughters; he is a fellow believer, albeit flawed like me. In the process, Dave also heard me. He agreed to remove three of the most offensive items from his website, something that never would have happened if I had walked away from dialogue.

Sustained Dialogue is a powerful tool we can use in our churches, communities and ministries. The International Institute for Sustained Dialogue offers resources to assist groups through five steps:

1. Deciding to engage in dialogue

2. Meeting together to name the problems (air grievances).

3. Probing the problems - not just what they are, but why (understanding each other's perspective).

4. Brainstorming positive scenarios (solutions)

5. Acting together to implement solutions.

As Christians, we are being "built together into a dwelling place for God." The travesty of our divisiveness is a fractured home. This, in turn, has global implications. Jesus prayed, "May they all be one . . . so that the world may believe You have sent me." Disagreement is inevitable, but that does not mean we can disown each other. Sustained Dialogue is a way to maintain family ties. Whether I like it or not, Dave is my brother, the son of my Father. And I am called to treat him like one.

January18, 2008 at 2:47 PM

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