We get into conversations with people all throughout the day. We speak with our family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. We speak about sports, work, memories, food, what happened last week, how our day is going, and what we hope happens next week. This is simply how we live as people made in the image of God. We converse!
Here is the thing though, as Christians, we do not merely want to be in conversations with people. Rather, we want to be in profitable conversations with people.
What is the difference?
When I say merely a conversation, I am talking about the conversations I mentioned earlier. I am talking about talking with somebody about sports, work, memories, food, what happened last week, how our day is going, and what we hope happens next week. These are merely conversations.
Now, do not get me wrong, these types of conversations are not bad, but they ought not be the end for which our conversations are aimed!
Rather, the end of our conversing is to spiritually profit the hearer. A conversation that has the things of God in it, speaks about Christ, speaks about certain aspects of a Christian worldview, or other holy and profitable things! This is what we ought to be aiming for in our conversations with people.
How do we do this?
- You have to enter into conversations with the desire to accomplish something.
- You have to view yourself as responsible for the way the conversation goes. You are the rudder and the conversation is the ship. You ought to be seeking to steer and guide the conversation to a profitable end.
- You must be a watchman. If you are going to steer the conversation to something that is profitable then you have to look for open paths to steer it into. You have to have discernment regarding when to bring up holy things and when not to, and when to keep talking about holy things and when to stop.
- You have to be a good question asker. Questions direct entire conversations. So, if you want to be the one in the driver’s seat of these conversations, you must ask good questions that guide the conversation to your own end.
- Once you bring up holy things, make sure that it is natural to go from holy things to casual talk to holy things. So, do not be scared to talk about whatever it is that they desire to talk about! If you go from mentioning something about Christ and then back to football that is perfectly okay. Keep talking with them about football until you have another opportunity to weave the gospel in there.
- Do not have an authoritative or “preachy” tone. This type of tone automatically makes the other person feel as though the conversation has ended and your lecture has begun. Therefore, speak to them with the same tone and manner that you were using throughout the earlier parts of your conversation.
- Do this with both believers and unbelievers. Do this with believers for their edification and conformity into the image of Christ, and do this with unbelievers so that they might know and believe in Christ.
- Do not feel like the conversation always has to be about Jesus, only about Jesus, and filled with Jesus. You can talk about other aspects of the Christian life too (something you read in the Bible, something you read in a book, aspects of a Christian worldview, etc.).
- Remember that this is something that will become more natural the more often you do it. You have to work at this!
Wisdom from Spurgeon
Spurgeon, when speaking about this topic, gave an illustration that is helpful. As Spurgeon was out and about one day, he came across a man driving a very large truck with a very small package in the back of it. This looked odd to Spurgeon and made him a bit curious so he spoke to the man saying, “It looks odd to see so large a truck for such a small load.” The man turned to Spurgeon and said, “Yes, sir, it is a very odd thing; but do you know I have met with an odder thing than that this very day. I’ve been about, working and sweating all this ‘ere blessed day, and till now I haven’t met a single gentleman that looked as if he’d give me a pint of beer, till I saw you.”
Spurgeon was amazed at how easily and smoothly this man turned the conversation towards his own end…..that end being getting a pint of beer! It then occurred to Spurgeon that if he had been more eager to turn that conversation to what he was interested in, holy things, rather than allowing that man to turn that conversation to his own end, that pint of beer, he would have been able to say something profitable to him. Spurgeon, as he reflected on this, said, “If by any means we may save some, we must, like our Lord, talk at table to good purpose—yes, and on the margin of the well, and by the road, and on the seashore, and in the house, and in the field.” He then concluded, “To be a holy talker for Jesus might be almost as fruitful an office as to be a faithful preacher!” That’s a striking statement coming from a man that church history regards as the “Prince of Preachers”.
Lastly, I just want to give you an example of what this type of conversation looks like from my own life.
As I was taking out the trash the other week, I ran into my next-door neighbors while they were sitting on the back porch. We started a conversation with each other much like many other conversations you would have throughout the day. I asked, “Hey, how are you doing?” They said, “Fine, how about you?” At some point in the conversation I asked them how their schooling was going. They both are in law school so inevitably they said it was tough. I told them that I know how it is because I am getting my masters and it has been a tough semester.
This sparked their attention so they asked me, “Where are you going to school?” I told them that I was attending a seminary in Wake Forest. One of them piped up saying, “That sounds religious.” Then I began to tell them about how I was getting a theological education, and that I am currently in a class that traces out the progression of orthodox theology throughout church history. One of them mentioned that my class sounded interesting because he enjoys reading history. I then used this as an opportunity to talk about how the doctrine of the trinity that we currently espouse today as Christians was debated, argued, and settled on over many years. This allowed me to talk about many different aspects of the gospel.
The conversation then turned to their years serving in the military overseas, some of the things they saw, Islam, and many other things. I tried to hang with them the best I could until another opportunity arose for me to speak about Christ. I then decided to use Islam as an opportunity. I talked about the different views Muslims have regarding Christ, and how the Christian understanding of Christ is entirely different and historically reliable. This once again allowed me to weave the gospel into the conversation.
The conversation went on longer than this and was very enjoyable, but I tell you all this just to give you an example of how I was trying to steer this conversation to profitable ends. I enjoyed talking about their law school, time in the military, and other things that were going on in their lives, but I was intentionally seeking to navigate the waters of this conversation to a point where I could speak about Christ. Therefore, when they were talking about schooling, I brought up my schooling. When they mentioned Islam, I brought up the difference between Muslims and Christians regarding the person of Christ. This was intentional. I wanted them to hear a little bit about our Lord!
So, as you go throughout your day and find yourself in conversations, seek to accomplish something. Strive to steer and navigate that conversation to a profitable end. Strive to be a holy talker for Jesus! By doing this you will be able to introduce unbelievers to our resurrected Savior, to a Christian that is not super awkward talking about the Lord, and other aspects of Christianity that they have never seen. You will also be able to contribute, by the power of the Spirit, to other brothers and sisters conformity into the image of Christ our Lord.