Who are your conversation partners? A lesson from C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis’ brilliance can be traced not only to his academic office, but also to important conversation partners he shared for many years before and after World War II.
Many know about the Inklings, the now famous Oxford literary group, with whom Lewis shared drafts of his works before they were published. With the others in the group, notably J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams, Lewis wrestled with the existence of good and evil, and received valuable feedback on many books including The Screwtape Letters.
Two other groups, however, also helped shape Lewis’ thinking and writing, the Oxford University Socratic Club and members of the Royal Air Force. Colin Duriez, in his book Bedeviled, points out that these two groups helped shape how Lewis spoke to non-academic people and those outside the Christian faith. His first talk “at RAF Abingdon near Oxford, [Lewis] considered as nothing short of an abject failure.” He learned to avoid religious jargon with these men “that had become unfamiliar in a post-Christian milieu.” The Socratic Club discussed questions about the Christian faith “raised by atheists, agnostics, and those disillusioned about religion.” Lewis served as the club’s president until 1954.
As a preacher who has helped and is helping shape how you share the Gospel?
This is an important question for all of us to consider. We may already have colleagues, like Lewis had the Inklings, with whom we regularly discuss Biblical texts for the week. But do we have friends and groups outside the church with whom we discuss and possibly wrestle with the Christian faith?
I am grateful to my non-Christian friends in the improv world and in the Applied Improvisation Network who challenge me to communicate the Gospel clearly; in ways that make sense not only to long-time Christians but also to those outside the church. They help me communicate the Gospel to human beings regardless of the sociological category in which they best fit. Like Lewis, we too are living in a time where need to avoid religious jargon with people in this increasingly “post-Christian milieu”.
Take a note from C.S. Lewis’ playbook, if you haven’t developed friendships outside the church, do so today.