As we think about getting together with the church, whether the setting is more or less formal, what should our dialogue look and sound like? What should our focus be? What's the goal?
These questions are important because if we give them no thought, we may end up doing a lot of talking with the church but accomplishing very little. So, what sort of dialogue should we aim for?
We could point to many scripture references to inform us. I'll mention three in particular:
Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Ephesians 4:29, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
I Corinthians 14:26, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up."
The Philippians passage reminds us that as followers of Christ we are to look to the good of others before ourselves. As we've all experienced in life, that's easier said than done. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we come close to living in such a manner. Nevertheless, this is what God expects.
In Ephesians 4:29, specifically focused on speech itself, we see that all our words should build up (or edify) others. While this applies to all people, in particular it deals with how we talk with others in the church.
Finally, the familiar I Cor. 14:26 reminds us that as the church comes together, everything that happens is to be for edification. This clearly and obviously includes all of our speech.
So what does this look like? As we gather as the church - in whatever form - our speech should be designed to edify others. Specifically, we should strive to focus our conversations on what we believe will benefit others. This may include topics that interest them, topics that challenge them, or topics that encourage them. Instead of moving the conversation toward what may most interest us, we should (as difficult as this may be) attempt to talk about what others care about.
I'm not suggesting artificial dialogue. We all know that conversations have a natural flow to them. However, we all have opportunities to talk about certain things. Given the chance let's focus most on what will benefit and edify our brothers and sisters in Christ.
All this takes place within the context of family. We must know one another well enough to talk about what will benefit them. You must really know others in order for your talk to benefit them a great deal.
In the end, our conversations should glorify God. This will probably mean that some of them have Him directly as the center focus. In others, He will be in the background. Whatever the conversation, God must be the foundation. All edification comes through Him and for Him.
So let's look to the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ as we seek to dialogue in a manner that builds up the church in Christ. This will require some thought and effort on our part. Let's be intentional in what we talk about with others. In this way, the entire church matures and God is glorified.