Spiritual conversations involve good talk about our good God in the midst of our bad life. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29).
Spiritual conversations are grace conversations. Law conversations crush people and destroy relationships (compare Matt. 23). Grace conversations edify people and build relationships — with Christ and the body of Christ.
How Do We “Build Others Up”?
Biblical counselors restrain themselves, refusing to speak until they understand what words will be:
- Helpful: Good because they flow from moral character and promote beautiful living.
- Strengthening/Building Up Others: Edifying words that bring improvement and promote maturity.
- According to Their Need: Carefully chosen words that specifically fill up a need, meet a lack, minister to a want, or express care in a difficulty, where it is most necessary.
- Beneficial/Ministering Grace: Attractive speech that helps others to perceive and receive God’s grace narrative. They are gift words — generously given, freely granted words that accept, that free, that empower, and that give hope.
To the Colossians, Paul writes, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). Grace words are words of connection, giving, affirming, accepting, freeing, and justifying. They are seasoned with salt — they preserve relationships with God, others, and self.
How Do We Ask Good Questions?
We need to be careful in the use of questions. We can think of spiritual conversations more as a quest to invite Jesus in, not as questions that push Jesus out and people away. It is wise to question the use of questions, especially the poor use of questions. A few principles can help.
- As biblical counselors we’re not interrogators. “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” Biblical counseling is a conversation, not a cross-examination.
- We need to be aware that questions can cause our counselee to feel like an object to be diagnosed or a lab specimen to be dissected.
- We never use questions as an excuse to avoid intimacy.
- We don’t use questions as filler because we’re unsure what to say.
When we do use questions, we can use them effectively by:
- Always asking ourselves, “Will this question further or inhibit the flow of our relationship, of our conversation?”
- Normally asking open-ended questions: ones that can’t be answered with a “Yes” or “No.”
- Using indirect questions that imply a desire for further exploration, without having a question mark at the end of our sentence. “Emilio, that had to have been incredibly hard when your wife left the room…”
Why Do We Have Spiritual Conversations?
Our desire in spiritual conversations is to help our counselees to live coram Deo — face-to-face with God in Christ. Our quest is to help our counselees to find God in the midst of their suffering. We want to send them on a God-quest where they bring God back into the center of their life journey.
Through gospel listening and gospel conversations, we relate Christ’s grace relevantly and richly to the specific person and their particular situation and unique story.
—Robert W. Kellemen, Gospel Conversations
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