From this past Sunday’s text we see that disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (11:26). This is probably because they were always talking about Christ – that’s what Christians do. So how can we cultivate an atmosphere of spiritual conversations. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Recognize the spiritual battle. Conversation is not incidental. Words reveal the heart (Matt. 12:34). If people’s words are filled with worldly concerns, that’s because their hearts are filled with worldly concerns. Ultimately, only God the Holy Spirit can give the kind of spiritual life and growth which enables this kind of culture. So pray that he would.
This won’t happen by accident. It’s unnatural for us to speak of spiritual things not just because such matters are personal, but because we’re sinners, and sin likes to stay in the darkness (Jn. 3:19-20). So you can’t let your church culture just go with the flow—you have to constantly swim upstream.
2. Talk about the sermon immediately after the service. Talk about God’s Word with each other right after the sermon. It is entirely possible for the Word to fall along the path and for college football or for the weekly agenda to snatch it up and carry it off. So we want to discuss the sermon right after the close of the service. Of course it’s allowable to discuss football, the weather, and the news after church. But it’s particularly strategic to discuss spiritual matters during the only time in the week when the entire church has come together in the same place and has just spent forty-five minutes listening to a sermon.
3. Pray through the main points of the sermon every week. In your prayers during the week, both individually and with other believers, pray through the sermon that you heard on the previous Sunday.
4. In discipling relationships, use the Bible and Christian books—or whatever it takes—as a third party. Many people who feel uncomfortable about discussing spiritual matters one-on-one will be more open if you add the Bible or a solid Christian book as the third member of your group. So read a chapter in the Bible or a book together and discuss that. Use it as a springboard into more personal matters.
5. Lead by example. Consistently model spiritual conversation. Share judiciously about your own struggles, challenges, and areas of growth. Tell others about how you have been applying the Word to those issues through your own daily devotions. Be transparent about your own spiritual life—a see-through leader is a powerful culture-shaping force.
6. Lead by example—through questions. One of the best ways to foster a culture of spiritual conversation in your church is to consistently and subtly force other people to do the talking. Ask questions like:
- “What are you reading in your quiet times?” (“Um…I haven’t been having a quiet time.” “Well, OK, let’s talk about that.”)
- How have you been growing spiritually lately?
- What are some sins you’ve been struggling with lately?
- What has God been teaching you lately?
- How’s your marriage?