There’s a Queen Anne’s dining table that sits in my parent’s home that has encircled those dearest to my heart.
There’s a handed-down-with-love table that sits in my home that has gathered squirmy children, lots of college students and plenty of dear friends.
There’s a long farm table with a bench on each side so that anyone and everyone who walks through the door can have a place to sit. This table once felt like a space to get to know a family that supports our ministry, but after celebrating Easters, Thanksgivings and birthdays together, it quickly became a table that felt like home away from home.
It was at this table where I first saw Cubby, a very influential leader in the community of Columbia, SC, be equally as influential around town as his supper table. He smiles, he listens, and within approximately 5 minutes he knows more about what is going on in your inner person than perhaps you ever did.
The norm in this family is that as soon as the blessing is said (over an amazing meal prepped by his precious wife, Susan), Cubby gently reminds the guests, in his *awesome* Laurins, SC accent, that talk of football or the weather can happen any old time, but that at his table, there will be talk of things that matter.
He typically shares something that he’s been reading or processing personally and then he poses a question for everyone to answer.
Something like, “Where would you like to see yourself spiritually in 5 years? What can you do to get there this year?” Or “Share where you have seen God at work in you and how He is using you to influence those around you for better and for worse.”
I watched people from all different walks of life share their apathy as well as their passion. It is safe to share at Cubby’s table.
Have you always been good at taking people beneath the surface in conversation?
My conversation style began to gradually changed as my life became more and more about Christ’s kingdom vs. Cubby’s kingdom. It didn’t change overnight. It started with seeing my role as a dad as a place of influence. I realized I could subtly lead my family in conversation and our time spent together could be spiritually meaningful. Then that spread to the workplace.
The more I grew in my relationship with God, the more my life became less about the paycheck and more about the joy of having the wives of prominent businessmen call me saying, “Cubby, my husband has come to Christ and it’s amazing! Our whole lives are changed.” There’s more joy in that than in any amount of money or social mobility. But it’s been a process.
In football there are only 3.5-4 second intervals when the ball is in play. It’s an extremely short time between the snap and a dead ball. And when you add it all up, there’s really only about 7 minutes of every game when you have the offense and the chance to win the game. The same is true in life.
Those little moments are what add up to make eternal impact. The key is being effective with the brief 7 minutes we are given.
How do you come up with thoughtful ways to engage people?
All day long, I am playing a game. It’s a game I call Transaction/Interaction. For example, I go to Publix on Mondays and I almost always bump into someone I know (Insertion: that’s because the dude is the unofficial mayor of Columbia). I have the choice to make a transaction and talk about something light like the weather, or I can have an interaction where I can drop something eternal into the conversation to see if God will take things to the next level. A game of Transaction/Interaction normally goes something like this:
“Hey Cubs, how was your weekend?”
“Oh, it was good! We went to the game and had a great time. Then we led a Bible study in our home for married couples. You may know some of them… (make some connections with the people or topics of interest.)”
The person will either say, “That’s great, Cubs. It was good to see you. Have a good day.” Or they will express interest or say something like, “Tell me about that Bible study. I’ve been meaning to ask you about stuff like that. I’ve been thinking about a lot of things. Sometime we should talk.”
It happens all the time. When you’re an approachable person and you take the risk to drop something of eternal value into your daily conversations God will keep the conversation going. I’ve played this game for a long time. People’s lives are typically a mess and often they are just looking for someone who will listen. Aren’t we all?
Any time I am given a moment with someone, I am asking God if He wants them to pour into me or if I am supposed to pour into them. Could I help this person grow spiritually, or could they help me?
God’s timing is perfect and He wants to use us in each other’s lives.
Describe a time you tried to go deeper with someone and they stonewalled you?
There have been a handful of times, but not too many because if you’re approachable and you really care, people will want to talk.
The best example is probably a conversation that was relayed to me. A friend of mine was traveling in the car with her friend and the question of where they went to church came up. When the lady with my friend heard I was preaching at her church, she told my friend, “Oh we never go to church when Cubby is teaching, because he uses words like ‘born again’ and he makes me feel like I am not a Christian.” My friend asked clarifying questions that got to the root issue that the lady didn’t actually know if she were a Christian and they were able to talk about how you can know for sure. Had my friend not pushed through the awkwardness that woman would still be stuck in silent doubt.
In those situations, I just try to be real with the person and I will even ask the person to be honest with me and tell me what bothers them about spiritual conversations. “Let’s play this out. If there really is life after death but I don’t tell you about it, am I really being kind to you?”
Most people are really open and want to talk. If they seem testy or belligerent I move on to something else because God timing is perfect and He is in charge. I don’t have any agenda to push.
This type of conversation is so counter cultural. Did/Do your teenagers ever get frustrated because it “wasn’t cool”? Do you ever just not “go there” with people?
If they didn’t think it was cool, they never have had the heart to tell me. :)
You know, especially around the Holidays my kids are always bringing their friends home from college. It’s usually about the free food and the fun of hanging out. . I am genuinely interested in how they are doing, so we will throw out the question of “How are things going spiritually for you, right now?” and there is typically great discussion. And even if the conversation isn’t good at least the food is.
There have been a few times when my kids have said, “Hey Dad, so-and-so wouldn’t really benefit from spiritual conversation at this point. Just a heads up they are only here for the food.” And so we keep it surfacey. There’s plenty of freedom and it doesn’t have to be forced.
Why do you take the risk to ask poignant questions? What makes this style of dialogue worth it to you?
So many people want to do big things for God and have an impact on the Kingdom. It’s easier to serve God than to know God. And what I’ve seen is that God uses most those who know Him best.
It’s easier to work the soup kitchen or buy the angel tree kid a bag of presents than it is to spend 3 and 4 hours studying Scripture.
It’s easy to be one of the countless young people who come into my office saying, “Cubs, I want to become a developer and own office space and strip malls and do work like you do.”
So I tell them to go buy a house, renovate it and rent it out. Then work on a a duplex and see how that goes. Then, when you’re about 50, you’ll be ready to try an office building, etc. There’s no substitute for hard work and faithfulness in the incremental small things.”
No one wants to hear that. They all want to come to my office and me tell them how to do the big things fast. But that’s not how life works and that’s not how God operates. There is no substitute for daily time with Him.
What a gift to get to hear from Cubby. I’d love to hear your feedback on this interview and the various tables you’ve sat around. Which ones come to mind? What made them special and safe? How was meaningful conversation fostered?
This post is a part of my 31 Days of Table Talk: Being Intentional Without Being Awkward Series. Click here to enjoy other articles!