Learning to talk about God

One of the things I have noticed while taking Clinical Pastoral Education is how difficult it is for so many people talk about their faith and about God.

I’m not sure if people lack the vocabulary, the experience, or the comfort needed to converse about matters of the spirit, but for so many people the awkwardness of it all is profound.

Ask them about family and the words come easily. As them about work, and no problem. Ask them about their illness and they can give you details about their symptoms, their diagnosis, their treatment, and their hopes.

Ask about God, and most people are reduced to babbling cliches or sitting in silence.

It makes me see the value of those class meetings where people not only were invited each week to talk about their spiritual life but were able to hear others do the same. It must have built up a vocabulary. It meant that people could answer the question, “Do you know Jesus?” without stammering.

Recovering this ability to talk about the life of the spirit without empty cliches or stammering silence would help bring life to the church.

What are some ways we can do that?

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6 thoughts on “Learning to talk about God

  1. Ministry in a small United Methodist church (50 in worship) gives me many opportunities to speak with members who are at all points along a “speak about God scale”. A common thread is that many are afraid to claim more spirituality than they experience in daily life. I also feel that fear in areas like prayer. I pray, but nothing like the early church power results from that prayer. I ask myself if lack of miraculous healings, changed lives, and spiritual growth are because the pastor (me) is lacking in spiritual depth. I crave real pentecost spiritual power, but find myself reverting to the old mantras. I “confessed my sin”, “asked Jesus to save me”, “asked God to fill me with His Holy Spirit and be Lord of my life”, but find that I lack the kind of spiritual power we see in Acts. I suspect that many people are afraid they will be “outed” for speaking out publicly about their personal faith, yet producing few concrete fruits of salvation. Some of the most Godly people I have known had no formal theological training, little theological vocabulary, but great presence and evidence of God’s Spirit in their lives. Their testimonies and loving spirits are what led me to Christ.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write. Your point about people not wanting to say more than they feel they can claim is a good one for me to hear.

  2. Well asked questions are the start of God conversations. “How is it with your soul?” may have done it for Wesley, but today that question seems to get confused with “How are you?” and the answer is generally a strange look followed by a hesitant, “Fine.”

    Questions like: What is your prayer life like these days? or Where do you see God at work in your life? begin to overcome this, although there are many rough starts there as well.

    What questions do you ask to start the conversations?

    1. I generally don’t start conversations at this point but look for ways in the midst of an ongoing conversation to ask questions similar to the ones your propose. Sometimes I ask people to “tell me about Jesus,” which gives them a lot of room to decide what to lift up.

  3. There’s a great story by the priest who does the Alpha series. Early in his ministry a parishioner asked him to pray for healing of a serious illness. He was very uncomfortable doing this but did anyway, not really expecting anything to change, perhaps the person would “feel better” but nothing more. He was hesitant to inquire at any time over the next few weeks about the condition not expecting to hear any good news and not sure what he would say at that point. Interestingly, the question of the parishoner’s illness did come up as a side issue some months later and the response was something like, “Oh, that problem went away right after you prayed over me”. The priest was shocked and chagrined at the same time and learned first-hand about the power of prayer.
    At least this is the story as I remember it. I wonder if readers of this blog have had similar experiences.

    1. Great story. I don’t know how many blog readers will pick up on this comment. Maybe I’ll move it out on the front page to see what people say.

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