How the Body of Christ Talks

Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church

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Academy of Parish Clergy 2020 Top Ten Book for Parish Ministry

In today's highly charged social and political environment, we often don't know how to talk well with others--especially with people whose backgrounds differ from our own. C. Christopher Smith, coauthor of the critically acclaimed and influential Slow Church, addresses why conversation has become such a challenge in the 21st century and argues that it is perhaps the most-needed spiritual practice of our individualistic age.

Smith likens practicing conversation to the working of the human body. Bodies are wondrous symphonies of diverse, intricate parts striving for our health, and our health suffers when these parts fail to converse effectively. Likewise, we must learn to converse effectively with those who differ from us in the body of Christ so we can embody Christ together in the world. In community, we learn what it means to belong to others and to a story that is bigger than ourselves.

Smith shows how church communities can be training hubs where we learn to talk with and listen to one another with kindness and compassion. The book explores how churches can initiate and sustain conversation, offers advice for working through seasons of conflict, suggests spiritual practices and dispositions that can foster conversation, and features stories from several congregations that are learning to practice conversation.


Introduction: We Are Conversational Bodies
1. Orienting Ourselves for the Journey: Theological Roots of Conversation 
Part 1: Setting Out on the Journey
2. Learning the Dynamics of Conversation
3. What Will We Talk About?
4. The Healing Potential of Conversational Methods
Part 2: A Spirituality for the Journey
5. Conversation as a Prayerful Way of Being
6. Abiding in the Messiness of Life
7. Preparing Our Whole Selves for Conversation
Part 3: Sustaining the Journey
8. Cultivating a Sense of Mission and Identity
9. Sustaining Conversation through Conflict
10. Enmeshing Ourselves in the Dance of Community
Conclusion: Conversational Bodies Bearing Witness
Appendix A: Sample Conversational Ground Rules
Appendix B: Additional Resources on Conversational Methods
Appendix C: Finding Common Ground in Conversations on Sexuality


"Chris Smith has become a genuinely alternative voice to Church as Usual. The mode of communication in most churches on a typical Sunday is preaching or teaching, whether in a Bible class or in the pulpit. The art of conversation is neither taught nor embodied in that form of communication. It is then no surprise that many Christians have not learned to converse about faith or about their spiritual journeys. How the Body of Christ Talks both talks about conversation and illustrates how it can be done. I can't recommend this book highly enough."

Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"In a world full of talking heads and devoid of attentive ears, C. Christopher Smith's practical book teaches us through poetic metaphors, useful advice, and theological wisdom how to be present to one another. How the Body of Christ Talks shows us a way of healthy, soulful dialogue."

Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, author of Healing Spiritual Wounds

"C. Christopher Smith's writings are both beautiful in style and unique in their clarity of thought. He takes a common subject and flips it on its head, revealing new insights and sharpening old categories of thought. In How the Body of Christ Talks, Chris helps us understand the church in a unique way and revolutionizes our thinking about speech and its role in who we are and what we should be about as God's people. This book accomplishes the rare feat of proving its thesis while illuminating many other facets of life. It is a must-read for its powerful message and timely subject."

Ken Wytsma, lead pastor of Village Church, Beaverton, Oregon; author of Redeeming How We Talk

"At the core of every church is the wonder of conversation. Without it we are empty. So open this book, delve deeply into the dynamics of conversation. Explore Chris Smith's suggestions for opening this space and making way for God's healing power. Read How the Body of Christ Talks and be schooled by one of the best in the art of conversation."

David Fitch, Northern Seminary; author of Faithful Presence

The Author

  1. C. Christopher Smith

    C. Christopher Smith

    C. Christopher Smith is a writer, community developer, and editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is coauthor of the award-winning book Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus and the author of Reading for the...

    Continue reading about C. Christopher Smith


Academy of Parish Clergy 2020 Top Ten Book for Parish Ministry