Not a member yet? Register now and get started.

lock and key

Sign in to your account.

Account Login

Forgot your password?

How to have a Spiritually Formative Conversation

08 Oct Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on How to have a Spiritually Formative Conversation
How to have a Spiritually Formative Conversation

A few years ago, I was talking with a good friend on the phone.  She was co-leading a support group and told me she was considering dropping it.  I knew she was gifted and that she had long looked for a place to serve, so I asked her if she knew why she wanted to stop.  She said she wasn’t sure, but called to ask my opinion.

Now – if you know me, you know I have a lot of opinions on a lot of different subjects and there was a time when I would have freely shared my opinion with her.  But, on this day I, instead, asked a question.  The question was “What do you think God’s desire is for you in this decision?” On the other end of the phone, silence.  I waited, saying nothing.  After what seemed like 10 minutes (but was maybe only 30 seconds) she said, “I never even thought about what God might want to say about it.  That is an interesting question and I want to think about it…ok?”


If you begin to pay attention you will notice that everywhere you go, people want to give you advice…or they want to counsel you…or lecture you.  People always think they know best what is best for you.  It will be what worked for them or worked for their brother’s sister-in-law’s cousin’s uncle.  It might be what they read in O Magazine or heard on Dr. Phil.  Or it could even be….are you ready?..…a…Bible verse.  Yep – a nice tidy Bible verse to solve all your problems.  Ok, now you can see that I might tend to exaggerate just a bit, so it may be a Bible verse to solve only one problem.  But if you are anything like me, your problems are never that simple (It might take two verses, at the least).

I have my own name for this – the habit of spitting out a verse in the midst of someone’s difficulties or attempt to make a wise decision.  I call it Bible whipping.  Don’t get me wrong – Scripture is life-giving and can certainly be used to help us discern the way, but it is far too deep and meaningful to be spit out in bite-size, self-help servings.

What would it be like to hear someone say to you, as you share a difficult place in your life, “Where are you sensing God with you in that place?” You probably would say, as my friend did, that you had never even considered that.  There is a way to be in conversation with others that actually entrusts them to God.  When we restrain ourselves from needing to point someone in what we consider the right direction, we create space for where God may be working and open up possibilities, including the possibility that God may have something different for them than what we want for them.

As you are noticing how many people try to give you advice or counseling, notice how many times you lean towards doing this yourself.  See if you can resist the temptation and instead ask the other where they sense God in whatever process they are working through.


So the next time someone comes to you trying to solve a problem, make a decision or even ask for advice:

  1.  Ask them if they had considered what God might want to say to them about whatever the situation is.
  2. Be careful with your tone and how you ask the question.  Sometimes we can ask a question already knowing what answer we think the other should give – that is not an open question.
  3. Refrain from advice-giving, counseling or scripture whipping, even they beg you.
  4. Hold them, and your desire for them to hear from God, in prayer.
  5. Begin to practice this on yourself…when you find yourself up against a decision or a problem, ask “What might God want to say to me about this?”  Then….listen.
Deb Turnow
Executive Director at Kavanna House
Deb Turnow is the Executive Director of Kavanna House, a spiritual formation center in York, Pa. Prior to that role, she was the Director of Spiritual Direction at Living Word Community Church in York. She has a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from York College in Pennsylvania and a M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Leadership from Spring Arbor University. She is also a graduate of the Spiritual Guidance Program at Shalem Institute. She is currently studying at San Francisco Theological Seminary. She is a certified spiritual director and also provides supervision for spiritual directors. She and her husband Jeff, live in York, PA.