Having Difficult Conversations in Love

Scott Harris - Senior Pastor | Northshore Christian Church, Everett, WA

My wife, Sandi, and I have two incredible daughters, Sydney and Stephanie (yes, all our names start with “S,” sorry, I’m that guy!). Our girls are both grown, married, and leading fruitful lives as followers of Jesus, His disciples. Hands down, the richest times of our lives were those years when they were living in our home.

One of the most significant challenges of being the father of two girls was having conversations with them in areas they needed to grow. They were great kids that I loved dearly. I didn’t want to hurt or upset them, but I knew that their growth depended on my stepping into conversations that would often be very difficult. Likewise, to avoid hurting, upsetting, or straining relationships with the ones we are discipling, we tend to avoid the hard conversations. The problem is that by doing so, we slow or limit our disciple’s growth.

Growth is a process of breaking through underdeveloped and immature areas in our lives so that we can discover greater freedom and effectiveness in God’s Kingdom. For a disciple, the areas needing growth are often blind spots or ignored areas that need attention. As a disciple-maker, God has placed you in the position to have hard conversations which are necessary to promote spiritual growth.

The Bible gives us many examples of hard conversations held for the sake of spiritual growth. When Nathan approached King David about his sin regarding Bathsheba, the King grew from the hard conversation (2 Samuel 12). Jesus sat with Zacchaeus, the tax collector, stepping into a socially uncomfortable situation, and that hard conversation led to Zacchaeus’ transformation (Luke 19:1-10). Paul had a hard conversation with Peter regarding his two-faced approach to the Gentiles, which led to growth on Peter’s part (Galatians 2:11-13).

God disciplines the ones He loves (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:5-7). He steps in and has hard, challenging conversations with us to help us mature spiritually. As disciple-makers, we are to follow God’s example. However, notice that each of these difficult conversations happened in the context of a relationship. As with every aspect of disciple-making, engaging in difficult conversations must be seen as part of a relational journey and not just a single rebuke or challenge.

Preparing for the Journey

The better you prepare, the more fruitful your journey will be. The same is true with hard conversations – you need to prepare.

Pray – The catalyst and empowerment must be from God. Ask God to give you a heart of love, a clear mind, and His words for the conversation. Pray that God would prepare the other person’s heart and mind to receive your words and that they would have a pliable heart.

Purpose – Know why you need to have the conversation. Ask yourself, “Why does my disciple need this?” What does God’s Word say about the topic at hand? How will this information help them grow in spiritual maturity?

Navigating the Journey

Courage – You will have to put on your ‘big kid pants’ in this aspect of disciple-making. The hardest part will be beginning the conversation. Being a disciple-maker is not for the faint of heart; challenging someone you love takes courage. Your love must override your fear.

Clarity – A clear message is mission-critical. People tend to skirt around what needs to be said in hard conversations to avoid damaging the relationship. The person receiving the unclear message is left with little or no understanding of what the issue is or the magnitude of it. A clear message is not void of love and respect; it just holds understanding in high value.

Plan – Provide a solution to the problem. Give the person a plan to make the needed adjustments to their walk with Jesus. Confrontation without a plan is not discipleship.

Commitment – Be locked in. Commit to being a supporting and guiding friend throughout their journey to spiritual maturity. God has called us to make disciples like Jesus did, relationally walking with our disciples through their spiritual maturation (John 17:18).

Celebrating the Journey

Don’t forget to be their biggest cheerleader! Celebrate each step they take towards Christlikeness!

You can be confident that the calling to be a disciple-maker will bring you to a place where you need to have difficult conversations. Remember that it is an honor and sacred privilege to be an instrument God uses to draw a person into a more intimate relationship with Him. Trust His calling.

by Scott Harris – Senior Pastor
Northshore Christian Church
Everett, WA