A good conversation is one of the few things that pretty much every single person enjoys. It is the cornerstone that forms the foundation of our friendships. While the subjects discussed vary from person to person, we will spend and enjoy hours in deep conversation with the people we value. Really, all that is needed for a good conversation is a group of people and a common interest. Although there are many interests that people have, as Christians, there is a set of interests that we all have, and that we should value above any other. We honor God as the center of everything we do, and this common area of values sets a groundwork for many thought-provoking and potentially life-shaping conversations.
Many of us lament the lack of these discussions. We wonder why after-church conversations are full of business, hunting, weather, and other banal subjects. We bemoan the fact that our youth group is so shallow and seemingly has no interest in spiritual things. We wish there was something we could do to bring more depth and life to the conversations we have with our friends.
Usually I, at least, peg the problem on the lack of interest my peers have in spiritual things. After all, I’d love to have more deep, stimulating discussions if other people would only want to have them. This mentality, however, promotes a false sense of helplessness that simply lulls us into ignoring deeper matters in our everyday conversations and settling for trite discussions just like everyone else.
This is a result I am challenging in my own life and in yours. Don’t settle for banalities. Strive for excellence.
Let’s consider how conversations start. Just like anything else, they come about based on previous groundwork. No matter what the subject of discussion is, it came up because someone was thinking about it. Someone was considering what God was doing in their life, how to be a more effective witness, how the church should relate to issue x, or whatever else the topic of discussion might be.
Jesus said that whatever comes out of the mouth is what has already been in your heart. Our conversations are a direct result of what is in our hearts. In order to have worthwhile discussions, we need to guide our thoughts into worthwhile channels. If your thoughts are mostly on your entertainment, hobbies, gossip, or other trivial things, that will be what you talk about. How much time do spend thinking about what God is doing through your life? How much effort do you put into building personal convictions in different areas of your life such as technology, recreation, spending habits, and so on? If you are actively thinking about these things, you will want to talk about them. You will want other people’s ideas and input, so you will ask what they think about them.
It is also worthwhile to point out that this will help keep your conversations genuine. Sometimes people feel like they need to “talk spiritual” either just because that’s what Christians do or to gain the approval of others. It can be tempting to come up with a spiritual question just to make yourself look good. A conversation starter is one thing, but looking for approval or trying to gain attention rarely works out and shows that a person is looking for the approval of men, not God.
Not only do our discussions need to stem from a heart after God, they need to speak into our hearts and effect changes that draw our lives closer to Him. It happens from time to time that, in these discussions, we actually happen on a subject that touches close to home. What do we do if a subject comes up that we know we need to work on in our lives? Do we avoid issues that might actually demand a change in our lives if we follow through with them? It’s easy to discuss theoretical problems with our communities that we can’t directly affect, but how do we relate to issues that we can control? Speaking personally, I can think of a few specific times when I was enjoying a conversation until it got too close to home; then suddenly, I wanted to change the subject. I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want to change.
If we are not willing to allow these discussions to actually change our lives, we are wasting our time. We must be willing to discuss subjects that will demand a change and be willing to make that change. If we are not willing to act, then all our talk, no matter how good it sounds, is simply hot air, and the only result is a cheapening of spiritual values to nothing more than a diverting pastime.
Of course, we need to actively make these conversations happen. It can be intimidating to start a discussion if you are not sure how it will be received. Sometimes people won’t really want to talk about a worthwhile topic, and it can be disheartening and embarrassing to have the topic you were inspired about fall flat when you try bringing it up. How do we go about making these discussions happen, especially if the people around us are seemingly not interested?
First, be sure you are not succumbing to the fear of men. Do not hold back just because of what you fear people will think. Especially among close friends, you should not need to fear that they will think less of you because you talk about spiritual things, and even if they will think less of you, that should not hold you back.
Also, consider the people you are choosing to make your friends. If your friends have no interest in discussing spiritual matters, then which direction are they taking you? We should seek out friends that will be a help in our Christian walk, not a hindrance. I am not suggesting that you be intellectually snobbish. It is easy to fall into the trap of valuing people less because their speech may be less refined or educated. Spiritual and intellectual are not necessarily the same thing.
As a final example, I have a friend who challenges me greatly. He will turn every discussion to spiritual matters, usually very early on. The Kingdom of God is his greatest interest, to the point where it is the goal and foundation of his every other interest. His discussions pour out of his enthusiasm for Christ. He cannot help but discuss spiritual things because that is what he is full of. It comes purely from his enthusiasm for and dedication to Christ. From whistling at his work to leaving notes about Christ in the electrical boxes for the next electrician to find, this enthusiasm and dedication is constantly coming out of his life in practical ways, both large and small.
In his words, “Jesus should be coming out all our pores. People should look at us and only see Jesus.”
My point is this: Every one of us should be so full of Jesus that He is all we think or talk about. Jesus should shine through every thought, action and conversation. If you want to raise the quality of your conversations with others, raise the level of Jesus in your life.