So if you’ve been following this blog for the last couple weeks you know the answer: “It’s still not about the band!” Is there a place for a praise band in church? Sure. Why not? There is nothing wrong with it and there is nothing particularly right with it either. The point is that it isn’t a magic bullet and it will not change the core problem in a church. Lagging attendance is the symptom but the real problem has to do with the “culture” of the congregation. Messing with the worship style may disrupt the congregation significantly (and not necessarily in a good way) but it will take something more powerful to change the culture of a congregation.
So if it isn’t the band, you might go for the second easy answer: we need evangelism training or some other kind of class or series of classes to teach our people to share their faith and invite people to church. Really? Do they really need that? Sure you say. They need to learn how to answer people’s questions and talk about what they believe. You might have a point about apologetics but for the most part, I disagree. It’s not lack of training that is stopping your people.
You might say that they are timid, private people. So they need help talking about their faith. Really? Have you seen your people talk to the stranger in line at the grocery store about their new grandchild and show them a picture? Have you heard them talk about politics with strangers or the people they barely know at the garden club? People are not timid.
People talk about what they are passionate about! And sadly they are not so passionate about Jesus! Sure, people have learned that in this society (culture) you ought not talk about your religious views. But more soberly they have probably also learned that at their particular church! No one talks about their faith life there either! Seriously, at church or among Christian friends, how often do they share what God is dong in their lives, how they are growing in their faith, ask for prayer with regard to their struggles against sin and for living in God’s will or furthermore see it modeled by their leaders! At best we mention our aches and pains and say in passing, I’ll remember you in prayer. Sure we preach about God, grace, Jesus and use illustrations of it. We have Bible studies on it. But how often do our people really engaging one another in supportive, transparent sharing of their doubts and fears and faith and faith struggles? Isn’t that what the scriptures mean when it says to bear one another’s burdens and admonish one another with all wisdom etc. (Gal 6:2; Col 3:16)?
In other words, if our people don’t see talking about personal faith modeled and participate in that kind of dialogue regularly, then we have taught them to keep quiet! (Do you remember “you get what you create and what you allow” from the last blog?) And if they don’t talk about such intimate spiritual things at church they will certainly not share Jesus and faith in Him with their friends and neighbors! The church’s organizational culture tells them loudly and clearly “That’s not the way we do things around here!” A band or a class to teach them “how” will not change that! If you think so it is a pipe dream!
It starts with passion. If you have been convicted of your sin, cut to the heart by the law, then comforted with the salve of the message of Jesus and relieved by the gospel that says your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, then your heart will sing! You will shout it from the rooftops! Not because you were told you had to or took a class but because no one can shut you up! You will find a way! A class would be almost insulting! “Pastor it just comes out! When I’m with people, I can’t help but talk about Jesus!” Then when you get those people together at church they spur one another on to love and good works! (Hebrews 10:24)
Now we are getting somewhere. As a result of the Word and sacraments it would be wise to provide intentional opportunities for people to engage with one another in personal and powerful ways. I can hear the responses now: but what more can we do? We offer Sunday services, Bible classes and encourage people to read the Bible on their own! Sure. But what about creating systems and structures for people to engage in “faith response” conversations? Jesus debriefed His sermon with His disciples. How can we do that as well? Hint: It probably won’t be a class. If you change your conversations you will change your church (and your church’s culture). It may not be very glamorous but it is powerful. And that will transfer to their every day conversations.
Some “Faith Response” dialogue starters:
- How is your faith life?
- What are you reading in God’s Word? What are you going to do about it?
- What is God doing in your life?
- How is God leading you to make a difference for Him?
- How can I support you? How can I pray for you? (And do it then and there!)
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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com