The people in our church don’t get it,” says the pastor. “They sit here on Sunday morning. I tell them to go out and share their faith. But they just sit there and do nothing.”
The pastor is right. Most pew-sitters don’t talk about God during the week. It’s one of the reasons the church in America is stuck.
But the people have good reasons to clam up about their faith. First, the methodology of the contemporary church sends the unspoken—but clear—message that talking about God is something that the paid professionals do. When the people come to church they know it’s their job to sit down, be quiet, and listen to the professional Christians on the stage do ministry. The sage-on-the-stage system communicates that faith is a spectator sport.
Second, though the pastor may urge and “teach” the pew-sitters to go out and share their faith, nobody actually learns how to do it. This struck me during the training we provide for new Lifetree Café licensees. After a hands-on demonstration of how Lifetree volunteers are trained to naturally share their faith stories during the Lifetree weekly experiences, one pastor trainee had an ah-ha.
“I get it,” he said. “All these years we’ve been telling people what they should do, but we’ve never let them practice. That would be like telling someone how to swim, but never letting them get in the pool. Lifetree Café is the pool. Now, every week we can let our people dive in the pool and practice sharing their faith.”
He’s right. Every week the believers at Lifetree sit next to not-yet-believers and talk about faith stuff in a safe environment. Through natural conversation the faithful listen to the varied stories of those around them, and naturally talk about what God is doing in their own lives. They learn how to “glow their faith” through real relationships.
Do you want a viral church, with people willingly sharing their faith all week? Well, you may need to shut up some of the time. Let the people talk. And give them authentic times and places to actually swim, to respectfully listen to not-yet-believers, to learn how to ask good questions, to practice talking naturally about what God is doing in their lives.