I have written about RealTalk and its history before, but it needs an update. RealTalk is the seminar that I have made nothing less than the flagship course for my entire ministry. That’s a lot of pressure for one little seminar, but I think it’s that important and pivotal. I come to this position after a lot of years of ministry and a lot of failures along with successes. The failures (which is a strong word – frustrations might be better) served me to ask myself and the Lord the question, “what is the most pivotal thing that all other aspects of personal and social transformation would most be affected by?” Possible answers:
- Prayer. Some say this, and I have seen powerful prayer ministries. They are built on the conviction that nothing will happen without God doing it, which is absolutely true. But I have two questions of the prayer people that I haven’t heard an answer for yet. 1) How do you get a prayer movement going? 2) Why is it that most Christians don’t feel called to pray?
- The Bible. Now who is going to argue against the Bible? Well, more and more Christians seem to, at least covertly, but I am not one of those. The Bible is the final answer for all that it speaks to. I build everything I do on my best understanding of what it is teaching. But if the Bible were the answer itself, it would have been designated the fourth member of the Trinity. My questions to those who “just teach the Bible” are two. 1) Why is it so rare for Bible teaching to expand minds, expand horizons, expand vision, and expand witness? Before you crucify me, consider my observation that where those things exist, it just doesn’t seem to be a function of pure Bible teaching, but rather of some other factor. What I observe is Bible teaching seems to confirm a given culture (whatever that is) and keep it there rather than challenge it. 2) What does the Bible, properly used, properly activate?
- Evangelism. If everyone just did there job as a witness, then everything would work out. Well, sure, we all need to do our job. My questions: 1) What does a lukewarm Christian witness to? 2) What actually is evangelism in this postmodern world?
- Discipleship. This was actually my answer for the first 9 years of ministry here in Russia. I was convinced that through excellent Christian counseling, coaching, and spiritual formation, people would grow and mature to the point that something magic would happen and their ability to function as a Body and go do the Great Commission would manifest. It didn’t happen, EVEN THOUGH all of those things I did actually had a fantastic impact on people, their personal growth, and their walks with the Lord. The questions I didn’t have an answer for (and I suspect others who major on discipleship) are: 1) How does discipleship naturally and inevitably lead to building an actual Body of Christ? 2) What are the unintended consequences of a strong focus on the individual?
So where did I land? Conversation. Such a simple answer, but I think it’s the most profound. God is a Trinity, eternally existing in self-giving relationship where each one’s essence is interconnected with the others’. They spoke and the universe was created. Jesus became the Word to redeem us from another conversation that had ruined everything between Satan and Eve, where Adam was too passive to speak up.
Everyone can talk. Everyone is made for relationship. So my question became, “If I can’t start with people buying into prayer, buying into the value of the Bible or its doctrines, and I can’t recruit based on even the simplest of evangelistic visions. If I can’t assume that the individuals are healthy before I start working with them, then what can I do?
I can (God can) create a healthy environment for conversation. I can create a healthy atmosphere for change in the context of shared commitment to relating well so that personal change happens. I can build prayer and appreciation for the Bible into the process so that they flow naturally out of a growing hunger for relationship, first of any sort, then to realize that our greatest hunger is for a relationship with God Himself.
Thus RealTalk came to take first place in my ministry. And the course that follows it (I’m still searching for a name) is doing everything above I hoped it would. I have seen growth in relationships take off in the last year. I have seen personal growth happen a much or more than when I was focused on personal growth. I have seen teamwork like never before in ten years of ministry here. Today was one great milestone. That team lead RealTalk for members of the St. Petersburg community all by themselves while I took my family on a family outing.
My next task is to get RealTalk in a form that anyone can lead it because I/we will make some video lectures and demonstrations to go along with the workbook that I have created (and revised about 600 times). I want to make it in both English (it’s no less needed in the US) and Russian. I just spoke to a person who was at the seminar today from the Far East of Russia who wants to take it back to her church there. BTW, this is an expensive project if anyone feels led to help support that project.