This primer is published by a ministry which calls itself Q Place, which is an organization focused on evangelism and fellowship through “small groups of 2-12 people who meet to discuss questions about life, God and the Bible” (p. 7). It is a companion to the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversation book written by Mary Schaller and John Crilly (p. 6). The contents are to be “facilitated, not taught” (p. 6) for, as we discover later, the authors believe our “fast-paced culture of distractions and media overload provides very little time to think and process individually what you believe about God” (p. 87). A facilitator is more of a guide than an expert or source of information, therefore “the focus is on the learner, not the one teaching” (p. 87, cf. pp. 86, 93).
The authors rightly state that most unchurched people are not being pursued by Christians (pp. 13-15), and they see Q Place as a means of reaching this ignored demographic. But in order to do it well, certain arts need to be learned and practiced (pp. 18-19), such as noticing, listening, loving, welcoming and sharing. A chapter is devoted to each of the nine arts, with ideas and activities to aid in their practice (for example, see pp. 47-49 on listening activities).
There are some helpful ideas in this primer that could be adopted in small outreach and fellowship groups. But a number of issues call for caution:
- Endorsement of questionable organizations and authors are plentiful, including Greg Boyd, Henri Nouwen, Karen Mains and Hugh Halter (pp. 14, 72, 75, 82, 99-102, 105).
- A lack of clarity on the gospel. At times a felt-need gospel seems prominent (pp. 17, 105), however a more solid definition is found on p. 108. Still the presentation of the gospel does not seem to be the goal of Q Place.
- Goals such as finding our own lifestyle (p. 75), unconditional acceptance (p. 78), sharing our views (p. 93), laughter and lively discussion (p. 93) are more emphasized than the gospel.
- Mysticism in the form of a vision (pp. 38-39) is shared.
I do not believe a biblical outreach could be established by using the methods and content found in this book. However some of the practical insights and activities could be of value when coupled with a more theologically sound approach.
Practicing the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, So You Can Talk About God with Anyone (Wheaton: Q Place, 2017) pp. 113, paper $9.99.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel