Caring for the souls of others is an essential part of living as a Christian. During the Reformation, one tool for providing that care was sometimes called “private conference”. Private conference was a broad (and not very descriptive) term, used to describe conversations and moments in conversations, in which one could get and provide spiritual encouragement and support. These conversations might happen because of a moment of need, or as a regular, intentional part of spiritual growth.

Examples and benefits of this practice were described in 1678 by John Bunyan in his popular allegory Pilgrim’s Progress. Historian Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe writes:

In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress private conference is what makes Christian’s journey at all possible. Time and again as destruction is imminent the advice and comfort of a fellow pilgrim enable him to press on. Private spiritual counseling guided individuals through the conversion experience; screened church members and led them to make a public profession of faith; enabled parents to bring their children and servants to the experience of grace, and saints to help one another grow in grace.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian needed the help of spiritual conversations for his journey, in the beginning, middle, and end. And so do we. And so do our neighbors. As Christians we should be actively seeking these moments of soul care for ourselves and helping to provide them for others. Learning more about the practice of “private conference” may be of some help.

Learn More: