“Something has changed in our church” was said to me by a lifetime member of my church, following a service one Sunday morning. When I asked him what he meant, he replied, “We are more spiritual in our daily lives and there are more men attending our church”
This challenged me to consider what this change meant, and how it came about. What transformed our church from being primarily a Christ based service club, to being a congregation glorifying and thanking Christ for his saving grace, and reaching out to others with that grace?
The statement had somehow affirmed a feeling that I personally had sensed as well. I decided to see if it was more widespread than just the two of us. And so I asked each person attending a Morning Prayer service to write 1-3 reasons why they come to church. (I hoped this approach would help even the introverts have time to think and give an answer.)
When we reviewed the responses, much to my surprise, almost all of them stated that they came to church: “To learn more about the Gospel teachings”, followed by “support” and “fellowship.“ Wow! We were already at the point of wanting to grow in our faith. God seemed to have already been at work in extraordinary ways. This was a good lesson to learn.
People are now excited to talk about their faith in Jesus Christ. Our minister preaches the Gospel simply and clearly. People outside the church are encouraged by members to accompany them to retreats, workshops and other events. Not only church members attend Bible studies, but others from the community are invited into the discussions as well. The Bible is taught as a guide that strengthens our Christian faith rather than simply as a historical document. We now have the confidence and joy in our faith to talk about it openly to others. As I reflect more on how this change has happened I have to admit the change has involved all of us.
And why are there more men attending church? I think it may have to do with clarity and commitment. We now talk clearly about turning our lives over to Christ to live in a fuller and more meaningful way. We speak about eternal life, and that there’s no reason to fear death. This sort of teaching seems to be of interest to both men and women.
We are grateful to God for sending us a pastor that preaches and encourages learning the Gospel message and sharing it with others. There have been bumps in the road but the Holy Spirit has guided us over and through them, and we have faith that this will continue to happen. A fear of openly telling people of the benefits of believing in Christ and turning their life over to Him, has been replaced with a confidence, joy and peace. We are changing. The Gospel message itself is not.
Addendum by the Director of Evangelism
Whenever I hear of a church that is coming alive to the joy of sharing their faith with others, I want to explore their story. What is changing that people are more confident and passionate about helping others know and follow Jesus? What on-the-ground activities and practices are contributing to this change?
In this month’s Good Idea we read just such a story from a church in southwestern Saskatchewan. Here are some points of encouragement I gleaned from their story that are applicable to all of our churches, whether large or small, rural or urban.
- Change is possible. A passionate spirituality can take hold!
- God himself is at work transforming lives. For this reason, prayer and a longing to discern and join in God’s mission, by both ordained and lay leaders, is crucial.
- Simplicity and clarity is key. In a society in which many have no real knowledge of Christian teaching, we need to again express the simple calling of Jesus to follow him as both Saviour and Lord.
- Invite people to respond and give them a way to do so. This could take the form of signing up for baptism preparation, a discipleship group, or a service of adult reaffirmation of faith. It could mean responding in prayer at their book club, or coming for anointing during a Sunday service. Opportunities for them to respond to God’s call should be varied and many.
- Preaching and teaching matters more than ever. Offer people different ways to grow in their faith. One-on-one mentoring, retreats, small groups, book clubs, workshops, courses, and sermons are all vehicles for evangelism and disciple-making. Make sure many of the gatherings in your church are events that church members could invite a non-Christian friend to.
- Teach people that sharing their faith is part of every Christian’s calling. Ordinary Christians sharing their life of faith was responsible for the explosive growth of the early Church (even during periods of persecution). It remains the way most people come to know and follow Jesus.