Hanging Out with Kissinger and Keller

Hanging Out with Kissinger and Keller

In the past few years, I’ve had the privilege to “hang out” with Dr. Henry Kissinger and Dr. Tim Keller. Both are rather bright fellows, and I’m learning a lot from these two intellectual giants. Ok, I’ve never actually met either chap, but I’ve been spent a good deal of time with them anyhow. How? I read Kissinger’s newer book, On China, and I often listen to Keller’s sermons in my car. So while I’ve never technically met either man (and probably never will), I still feel like I’m getting some significant “campfire talk time” with both of them.

I say campfire time because, in my view, some of the best talks occur around campfires. I love late night talks around campfires (not necessarily with 10-15 people, but with one or two others). Those late-night, lingering talks in which a few people can proceed to “Level 3” conversations and stay there for an hour or two—these are absolute delights. I treasure them.

Level 1 conversations are those center around people’s activities (e.g., “Did you know that Bill and Betty are getting married?”). Level 2 conversations center around events (e.g., “Wasn’t the earthquake in Boliva tragic?”). Level 3 conversations center around ideas and our inner lives. (e.g., “What are you reading currently, and what do you think?” or “How’s your soul right now?” or “How’s God messing with you lately?”).

Quite honestly, we have to spend a lot of our day at level one and two—but real heart change and real thinking (and real friendships) can only occur as we move to Level 3. Unfortunately, our culture does not breed Level 3 conversations very well. The older I get, the more I crave spending time at Level 3 with people. Recently in England, I had a chance to take several hikes with my son, Ben. We were able to traverse all three levels of conversation, but I especially relished those lingering times of Level 3 discussions. The English countryside seems especially suited for long, lingering talks like this. Who can put a price tag on such talks!? These are the kinds of talks I often have with my own father on my study breaks, as we sit around a literal campfire each evening in Ludington. It’s the kinds of talks Becky and I have when we spend time away together. Heart to heart, soul to soul.

This brings me back to Henry and Tim. One of the best ways to get in-depth time with someone (i.e., campfire time) is to spend time with them in through a book they’ve written or a talk they’ve given. Granted, nothing replaces actual campfire time (or car time, etc) with a living, breathing person. Nothing replaces live conversation. But listening to someone (being “mentored”) through a book or series of sermons still fills a need that we have. It is a reminder that mentors don’t necessarily need to be people that you know. Most of my current mentors are either dead, or still living but not personal acquaintances of mine.

As I’ve “sat” with Dr. Kissinger, I’ve learned a lot about China. Having visited China a few years ago, I was especially interested in its people and culture. Kissinger’s insights have been fascinating and captivating. They’ve caused me to reflect on American culture and how it affects me and my beliefs. Likewise, Keller’s sermons on hope and the gospel have been a real joy to listen to and ponder. Again and again, I find myself sitting in the car, almost forgetting that I’m listening to a CD. As he speaks, I listen, ponder, reflect . . . rewind . . . listen some more, and then spend time processing it. How I need the insights of a gifted, godly man like this who thinks deeply and walks with God! I need him to speak into my life.

So who are you hanging out with these days? Who’s speaking into your life? How often are you getting into Level 3 conversations with those around you? It requires us to slow down a bit, but the rewards are well worth it. Real soul change occurs at this level. It’s the level we must get to with a few others, and with our God. That’s when we will see life transformation and joy along the journey.

by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor