“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others”
– Philippians 2:3-4
During last Sunday’s sermon I mentioned that the Apostle James liked to ask questions. Jesus did it. Paul did it. I want to encourage you to also ask good questions and have good conversations. Good conversations that contain good questions express care to those around us. It seems like developing conversations is a bit of an art form, but we should be committed to the process. So, I thought I’d try and give you some ways we can also ask better questions and have better conversations:
1. Recognise that you’re in a spiritual battle.
This simply means that we need to fight to have good conversations. We won’t fall into them, they are not incidental. What are we fighting? Well normally we’re fighting against our own self-consciousness. Most of us are pretty aware of our inadequacies when it comes to striking up conversations and then raising the conversation from the secular to the spiritual so we steer clear of it altogether. That’s Satan’s goal – to prevent us from having good conversations.
2. Keep your focus on others
No-one likes having the kind of conversation when it’s clear the other person is more interested in something else that is going on the room. Keep your focus on the other person as you talk to each other. Keep eye contact. Be genuine in your interest. Be persistent in your questions. This is an adventure in building lasting friendships and encouraging others in the Lord. Make the conversation about them and Jesus, not you and … you!
3. Keep the topic spiritual
Again, you won’t stumble into this. It’s often much easier to talk about the weather, sport or your next day off. It’s hard for us to speak of spiritual things – not only because somethings these things can be quite person but because we’re all sinners. Jesus said in John 3:19-20:
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
So sin, Jesus says, likes to stay in the darkness (Jn. 3:19-20). This means we have to constantly swim against the tide. Remember what James has been saying? Words reveal the heart. if our worlds are filled with worldly concerns, that’s because their hearts are filled with worldly concerns.
4. Encourage others to do this same
Encourage those who you know well to talk about the sermon immediately after the service. Our tea and coffee time is a great opportunity for this. It is entirely possible for the Word to fall along the path and for other activities of the day to snatch it up and carry it off. So encourage those you love and know well to help you – and our church – to have good conversations right after the close of the service.
5. Fashion questions to use
One of the best ways to help to develop spiritual conversation is to consistently and subtly force other people to do the talking. Here’s some ideas:
- What are you reading in your quiet times?
- follow on question might be …. let’s talk about that!
- What has God been teaching you lately?
- follow on question might be … how do you think you can do what God is showing you?
- How’s your marriage?
- extended question (better) – What is God showing you about your marriage? How are your quiet times with your husband/wife?
- What are you praying for at the moment?
- follow on question … how can I pray? Could I pray for you right now?
6. Stop talking
A conversation isn’t a speech. They are not monologs. Chances are that we lessen our effectiveness with our conversations if we are loaded with remarkable things to say. My experience is that better conversations are borne out of a genuine interest to hear what the other person is saying. Let them talk. Begin with listening as a rule.
So next time we gather, why not try it out …. develop spiritual conversations by asking good questions.