Six ways to get beyond basic conversations at church
Fellowship is meant to do great things for us. It’s meant to encourage us, strengthen us, and fire up our love for God – but often the reality of our conversations falls far short, and that can leave us feeling alone and uncared for.
Lately I’ve been thinking about simple things that people can realistically do in conversation that contribute positively to the body life of the church. Here are the six things that I have come up with:
Ask about a situation you know about
“Hey, how have things been going with that guy from work you told me about? What’s happened?”
Maybe you know from a previous conversation how they have been struggling at home with their relationship with their parents – well, ask them about how that’s been going. They will have to go back into that situation themselves, but it is a great support for them if they can see that others know and care about that difficult family relationship.
Ask for prayer
“Hey look I’m wondering if you could pray for me right now – I have a difficult conversation I need to have later on and I’m feeling really nervous about it.”
Don’t ask them how you can pray for them – that can be too confronting and awkward. Instead ask them if they would pray for you. This way you can help build a culture where people are spontaneously praying for one another, drawing our earthly struggles before the throne of the sovereign Lord.
Give an encouraging word
“Thanks heaps for playing for us up there today. It sounded great!”
“Hey, I saw you doing the welcoming today – good job.”
This is obvious – but one of the things I’ve noticed is that instead of thanking people for what we do, we tend to just expect that people will do stuff. So take the opportunity to show genuine appreciation for the things that people do for the body.
Ask for advice about something
“You know I’ve been hitting a brick wall with evangelism at work with this one guy. Tell me: how would you go about doing it?”
One of the good things about church is that we can benefit from the wisdom of others. Others may have insights into evangelism in the workplace, or fighting sin – so one of the ways you can make the most of church is to learn from others. You can’t make someone else ask for advice – but you can help create a culture where people are okay with asking for help. And you might learn a thing or two in the process.
Share something of your delight in God
“Mmm, I really love those words in that last song: ‘My name is written on his hands / my name is graven on his heart.’”
There’s no need to go into a rapturous speech – say something that fits with your personality and the situation. But the idea here is to direct your friend in a natural way to the loveliness of God. Because church is all about people who love Jesus coming together, and exciting each others’ love for Jesus – and so that’s what you want to do: direct them to the glory of God in a way that fits with who you are.
Offer a loving rebuke
“Hey listen I want to talk with you about last Thursday when you came really late to Bible study…”
This one probably takes a bit more thought, relationship and skill than all the others in this list so far – but if human sin is a reality, then every one of us will always have things that we can repent of. Raise it in whatever way is culturally appropriate – the round about way, or the direct way. As much as you can, do it in a smart way – but the reality is that until we can build a culture where this is okay, it will always be somewhat awkward. However at church, we aren’t just about having happy friendships. Ultimately we are concerned about godliness – and the relationships we have are a means to that end.
I use the mnemonic SPREAD to help me remember these six strategies: Situation – Prayer – Rebuke – Encourage – Advice – Delight.
Notice that apart from the last one, these six things are relatively simple to do. It’s not like writing a full-on Bible study or giving a talk – anyone can do these things.
Notice also that half of these things aren’t about them, they are actually about yourself. You are asking for advice, you are needing prayer, you are showing your delight in God. Because at church it’s not as though you have everything together and you are there to fix everyone else! No, you also need the help of your brothers and sisters.
Yet every one of these things actually makes good use of conversations at church. Instead of conversations merely about the nuts and bolts of ministry or about what silly thing someone did this week, conversations can be used to genuinely strengthen and prepare one another for the mission of God.
If you could do just one of these things each week – it would exert a positive influence on the culture of your church. And if everyone else got in on the act, what a difference that would make!