I grew up in a Christian home, but didn’t grow up in church culture.
That statement begs explanation (we did attend church, even organized home churches at times), but would take a post of its own to fully expand upon.
All I really mean by this is that until I was an adult, I’d largely neither experienced nor been aware of nominal Christianity, “Christianese,” dead religiosity… nor the idea of a faith just compelling enough to land a person in a pew on Sunday, but not enough to change how he lived throughout the week.
My father quoted the old preacher who said, “I’d rather my children spend a day in a bar than one hour with a lukewarm believer.” He understood the immense spiritual danger of learning to “talk the talk” without genuine heart change behind the words. Of convincing oneself of having love for God while actually becoming hardened to the Gospel. Of feeling spiritually secure… while deeply and hopelessly estranged from God.
I’m sure his time as a teacher at a Christian school shaped some of his perspective on this.
The believers I knew still failed to walk in the Spirit and sinned— as we all do. Of course. Some had to fight not to lean toward law, and some had to fight not to lean toward license. In our flesh we are all prone to extremes. But there was a realness, a glowing aliveness, and a genuine love for Jesus that filled them up to overflowing, truly transformed the way they lived, and made you want what they had more than anything.
So, it was bewildering— a shock, more accurately— to first experience what I call “church culture:” the specific lingo, the unspoken idea that swearing is somehow more sinful than gossiping, the little things that become embedded in any subculture… but most of all, the discovery that there are people who say they love Jesus but feel awkward, uncomfortable, or even hostile about talking about Him. Even with other believers.
For some reason, I still remember the first woman I encountered who eschewed spiritual conversation. She consistently met anyone’s excitement (not just mine) about what Jesus was doing in their lives with disinterest, silence, and a subject change. It confused and crushed me.
We should each personally delve into the root causes of this kind of disinterest, and we’ll get into that a bit later. There are many reasons why someone might struggle to have spiritual conversations.
But whatever the reason, the end result is that our discussions during times of Christian “fellowship” very often revolve around anything and everything except the one thing that truly unites us as brothers and sisters. Since realizing a lot of people dislike these conversations, I’ve certainly failed to initiate them myself, at times.
My dear husband spoke of this with Spirit-filled wisdom in a recent Facebook status:
To my Christian friends: I am hesitant to write this, knowing that I will be held to the standard that I desire to achieve, but hopefully that will just motivate me more to be consistent with God’s Word.
Why do we go to church? By that I mean, why do we go to a building on Sunday to hear a sermon and worship God?
I pose the question as one that has come into my mind occasionally in recent years. Not because I don’t like church; I love being there! But […], we can listen to a sermon online; in fact, even the sermons from our own church. We can sing songs of worship as a family. We can pray together. […]
[…] One of the primary defenses for why we go to a church building is found in Hebrews 10:24-25– “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
We tend to focus on that center part– “not neglecting to meet together”– and while we are aware of the parts around it, we tend to not practice them. We need to “stir up one another to love and good works,” and “encouraging one another.” This is not something the pastor does for us when he gives the sermon. It may stir us up to love and good works, it may be encouraging, but the exhortation in this passage is for us to be doing that with EACH OTHER.
[…] How often do I talk about the sermon with people afterwards? Pretty much never, and I could say that is true for pretty much all of us it seems. The talking with our fellow brothers and sisters about what we learned and what was convicting and what we can apply is where the Holy Spirit works in us to actually ACT on what was taught and solidify it in our hearts.
If we don’t do that, it’s usually lost before we even get home and kick our feet up for the Packer game. That’s what we seem to rather talk about after church, anyway: the Packers, the weather, our jobs, the latest gossip, our projects, our kids… pretty much anything but spiritual things or what was just taught.
It’s my encouragement to you all, and myself, that we talk about what is truly important with our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially while at church, but really any time we are around them. It’s really not Christian fellowship if we aren’t talking about anything even related to being a Christian. It’s just two people talking. And while I do think it is important to share life circumstances and realities with Christian friends, it can’t be the only thing. It should only be shared under the assumption that spiritual conversation is the first or primary part of your dialogue, and using that spiritual wisdom to inform on our life circumstances.
The Day of the Lord is approaching. While many of us may still be meeting together, lets make sure we are encouraging one another and stirring up to love and good works as well!
To apply this more specifically to us as wives, mothers, and women, I wanted to pose the question: “How can we be doing this better with each other?”
It seems to me that there are two main reasons we don’t do it.
The first reason might be fear of others perceiving us as weird, even if we ourselves absolutely love such conversations (I can identify with this one). So many Christians think it’s cool to say or imply that “not everything has to be about Jesus, you know.” That’s pretty disheartening. But when this is the case, we need to remember Whose opinion matters, and ask Him to remove our “fear of man.” I think we can also simply make a point in our minds to do it more often. And then deliberately act on it. Make it a habit.
Instead of talking about whatever topic we happen to drift into, we can ask real questions of our friends, such as, “What has God been teaching you?” or “How is motherhood?” or “How’s your marriage doing these days?” (speaking of our own joys and failures, not using it as an opportunity to gossip about our husbands, of course).
Or– how about this– “How’s your walk with the Lord lately?” and then opening up about our own hearts as well?
If that sounds like a strange question to ask a friend, I would just challenge you to ask yourself why.
After all, we hardly think it strange to ask similar questions in just about any other area of our friends’ lives:
“How’s your health after that checkup?”
“How’s your garden doing?”
“How are you feeling about the big move?”
These are easy to ask, because we care about one another. So shouldn’t we also care enough to inquire about each other’s spiritual health, which is infinitely, eternally, of more importance?
We are sisters in God’s family. Too often, we live as complete islands unto ourselves. Single women can be experiencing grief and bitterness over their circumstances, with no one to comfort nor speak truth to them. New mothers may experience anxious overwhelm and deep sorrow, with no one to offer helpful advice and encouragement. Marriages unravel, and no one had any idea they were even struggling.
Casual, surface-level conversation has its place in developing a friendship, but it won’t enable us to truly know one another. If we never ask the real, honest questions and give real, honest answers, we’ll never help one another to carry very real burdens.
The second and more important way we can make these questions happen is to simply consider and not neglect their source.
Whenever we just aren’t excited to talk about Jesus, there’s a good chance that it’s because there’s not much to talk about— because we are not close to Him. Not taking the time to sit at His feet and talk with Him. Not filling our minds and hearts with His Word. Not confessing and repenting of sin. Not listening to the Holy Spirit and daily being convicted, encouraged, and brought to our knees in awe of Who God is and what He is doing.
Or maybe even don’t truly know Him in the first place.
Have you even met someone in love? Their conversation is preoccupied with the object of their affection. They don’t have to force it; it simply bubbles over and somehow spills into everything else they talk about.
The truth is, we talk about whatever and whomever we’re in love with.
What are your thoughts on spiritual conversations? How can you implement them in your own life?
May 2019 be the year that we “consider how to provoke one another to love and to good works”! (Hebrews 10:24) 🙂