The idea of Coffee Shop Conversations (the blog and the book) began two years ago. It all started with a simple phone call to a friend. My friend and I talked about the Christian community and our unfortunate habit of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to problem-solving. This happens when the spiritual disciplines are treated as a magic wand—they are given as the answer to all of life’s problems.
I experienced this firsthand. Ten years ago, I went through a series of personal crises. Well-meaning church leaders advised me to:
- Pray more
- Read the Bible regularly
- Attend church
- Tithe, and
- Trust God for the results.
Although the spiritual disciplines are incredibly valuable, none of them directly related to my issues. I learned it is quite possible to practice these disciplines and still have a multitude of problems. While the spiritual disciplines grow one’s spiritual life, they are not a quick fix for all difficulties.
A second way the Christian community takes a one-size-fits-all approach is with Scripture. Some Christians know just enough Bible to be dangerous. Too often, Christian counsel goes like this:
- One person describes the problem.
- The second person cites a passage of Scripture. It also might be a Bible story or verse that relates to that problem.
- This Scripture becomes “God’s answer.”
- The struggling Christ-follower is exhorted to apply a specific action step to his life. If it does not work, he is encouraged to try harder.
Has anyone ever taken this approach with you? If so, then you know just how frustrating this approach is. This oversimplified approach is problematic for many reasons. First, Scripture is often pulled out of context. Thus, hurting Christ-followers are encouraged to apply solutions that are not relevant. A second problem is this approach does not consider there are often a multitude of God-honoring solutions. Christian problem solving is not about finding “God’s one answer.” Instead, it is about generating positive solutions that fit into a Biblical worldview. Most of the time, a ridged, one-size-fits-all approach is neither necessary nor helpful.
Problems with a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
I tried the one-size-fits-all approach for a number of years. I prayed more, studied the Bible, attended church, fasted, tithed, and trusted God for the results. My problems got bigger, and I tried harder. Insanity is defined as, “doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results.” I lived this definition for years, and it is incredibly frustrating. Eventually, I learned three things. I discovered:
1. People are unique.
In Psalms 139:14, David writes, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” No two snowflakes are alike. No two people are the same either.
[Tweet “You are a one of a kind, God designed masterpiece!”]
Because each individual is different, a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work. Unique people require unique solutions.
2. Life is messy and has nuances.
Not only is every person unique, but problems are very different too. Every challenge has its nuances. This is why I’m passionate about conversation. Conversation involves brainstorming and planning. Conversations facilitate growth. In good conversations, two people partner together to find a solution that fits the individual’s unique style and the nuances of the situation.
[Tweet “Conversation is powerful!”]
3. Solutions are rarely black-and-white.
My wife recently pointed out how much I love bullet-points and lists. She is right. The evidence is all over this post. I use bullet points and lists because there are always many good options available. The trick is to find them. We see this modeled in Scripture. Proverbs 26:5 says, “Answer a fool according to his folly,” and Proverbs 26:6 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly.” These two passages both contain sound advice. However, wisdom and situational awareness are required to discern which advice to apply.
I will never forget my first counseling class. The dean gave an overview of the various tools we would study during the course of the program. As he spoke, passage after passage of Scripture came to mind. I thought, Wow! This is exactly what the Bible teaches. The Bible is packed with wisdom. When challenges arise, there are many Scriptures applicable to the situation. The question is usually not, “What is God’s solution?” but “Which Biblical solution best fits my unique, God-given personality?” We might also ask, “Which God-honoring solution addresses the nuances of my circumstances?”
During the conversation with my friend, I explained how some people have a knack for complicating simple truths. I wanted to take key principles from psychology and the Bible and make them easily applicable to all. My goal would be to write as if I was having a friendly coffee shop conversation. My friend interrupted. “Jed, that needs to be your title-. Put it just like that!” So, I did. I enjoy coffee, and I love casual, coffee shop conversations. Especially the ones that focus on our unique, God-given personalities.
Coffee Shop Conversations is Born
This is how the Coffee Shops Conversations blog and books came about. I’m excited that this month I’ll include more conversation in this blog. Today I have the privilege of conducting my first interview with Alan Woods. I recently read his book, Kindle Domination: 25 Strategies to Sell More Books on Amazon. Alan has a passion for helping others succeed. I look forward to sharing his story with you in an upcoming post!
I would love to hear your story. What makes your message unique? If you would like to have an actual coffee shop conversation and be a featured guest on this blog, I would love to connect. Simply e-mail me and let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Continue the Coffee Shop Casual Conversation
As you can see, I believe you are one of a kind. I believe your situation has its nuances. If you feel stuck, keep pressing forward! There are God-honoring solutions that fit your individual design. If you search long enough, you will find them.
So what’s your story? Give me the coffee shop casual version in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you!