With the onslaught of technological ways to connect: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. it seems that people today are becoming less and less adept at being conversational with one another. As counselors, it is no surprise that a major component of our ministry is that of initiating, sustaining, and acting on conversations we have with those we care for and shepherd.
The Bible is rich with teaching on how we speak to one another, what we speak about to one another, and why we speak to one another. God Himself has chosen to reveal Himself through language and conversation. The opening lines of our first book of the Bible begin with, “And God said…” It also shouldn’t shock us that the most often repeated one-another in the New Testament is the simplest as well, “Greet one another…” The relational component of life together cannot be underestimated.
Towards that end, as pastors or counselors it should be an important goal for us to train our people in how to speak to one another. Here are four goals I would desire for those I shepherd and care for.
Help People Become Better Question Askers
After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God proceeds to ask them a series of three questions, “Where are you?” “Who told you that you were naked?” “What is this that you have done?” The answers to all three questions, God clearly already knew, so why ask? Tim Keller says that God is essentially trying to call them out, give them an opportunity to come out from hiding; He’s counseling them.
The examples we see in Scriptures of God and Jesus both asking questions to draw people out is well documented and recorded (cf. John 3, 4). Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” This drawing out could certainly happen through different means, but nothing like a good question gets you going.
What kind of questions do you use? Do you encourage your people to work towards becoming better question askers? David Powlison’s article, X-Ray Questions provides a plethora of great questions which can easily be inserted into the natural rhythms of conversation.
Help People Initiate
Too often, great opportunities are squandered in everyday conversations because of our fear to initiate and take a step into the mess of people’s lives. Keeping conversation on topics like the weather, your favorite sports team or the latest recipe you tried for dinner is easy. Initiating conversations on things which perhaps lie beneath the surface of the common is a bit more difficult and no doubt intimidating. Encourage people to look for ways to take the conversation to the next-level. How can I move from the everyday to getting them to share their burdens, struggles, hopes and desires?
How can I encourage people towards seeing initiation of conversations as an expression of Christlike love?
Help People Follow Up
Ed Welch often says that counseling can be distilled down to two questions, “How are you doing?” and “How can I pray for you?”
Not to oversimplify, I believe what Welch is seeking to do is demythologize to some degree what counselors do. Essentially counselors are seeking to come alongside the hurting and the struggling to incarnate the grace, peace, and love of Christ.
It’s this latter piece of Welch’s counsel that is oftentimes I think missed. When topics come up in meaningful conversation, how do I follow up? What would it look for me to go back to the person in loving conversation and pick up from where I left off with them? Whether it be asking how they are doing with a particular struggle or to rejoice with them in the news of personal transformation, follow-up in person is another key step in building up the body of Christ.
Help People Keep Christ at the Center
As counselors we must consistently remind ourselves and others of why we do what we do. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15-16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” We speak and interact with one another for the purpose of spiritual growth and edification.
This passage should encourage even those serving in a “lay-capacity” that indeed they play a crucial and seminal role in the body of Christ. They, just like their pastors and elders, have a speaking and conversational ministry that is similarly important and necessary for the community of Christ to be built up and edified.
Join the Conversation
How can you join the redemptive chorus of transformational conversation? How can you encourage and model for others how this important everyday work is done? What common areas of your life can you sanctify and redeem for Christ and His glory today?