According to the REVEAL survey (taken by thousands of churches and hundreds of thousands of believers) only 19% of church goers have a faith conversation with an unbeliever 6 or more times a year. For CRC congregations that have taken REVEAL, the average is just 12%. In his book Growing True Disciples, George Barna suggests that one in eight adult believers feel prepared to share their faith in an effective way. This is far from Peter’s expectation in I Peter 3:15 where he writes, “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, doing so with gentleness and respect.”
How can this pattern of inactive faith sharing be changed in a local congregation?
One solution is to baby step the congregation through a faith sharing journey. The first step focuses on teaching them to share a “God-Word.” God-words are good words highlighting that we “revere Christ as Lord.” This can happen in a variety of ways. For example, it begins by making Scripture and faith testimonies obvious in our homes and work places so guests or customers see evidence of our faith. Additionally, it can be drawing a text for each day from our “chair time” and praying that the Lord will give opportunity to share this God-word with someone we meet. Or it can be a statement we use in response to everyday questions that naturally accompany conversation. For example, if someone asks you as a believer about your day, you could respond, "Yes, thanks, God's been good to me today."
A congregation should practice God-words for a few months and share how these God-words open doors. When that practice becomes comfortable, the next step is writing and sharing a testimony. A testimony focuses on the difference Christ has made in a believer’s life without sharing the full Gospel story. Generally, it’s a short 3-4 minute story that names what life was like before a person met Christ, how Christ came into life and how life has changed as a result of Christ’s presence. For believers who grew up in the faith, a testimony names what life was like before Christ became central, how a person grew closer to Christ, and how this personal relationship has enhanced life.
Everyone should be encouraged to write out their testimony and share them with a couple believers until it feels comfortable and natural. When the testimony flows easily, they should begin praying for an opportunity to share this testimony with someone who is on a journey to God.
Finally, after a few months practicing God-words and testimonies, a congregation will be ready to invest in learning a clear and easy to remember Gospel-telling process. There are many Gospel-telling methods but all Gospel stories must include the three essentials of sin, salvation and service. Whatever method is chosen, that method should be spoken every Sunday morning from the pulpit. Repetition from the pulpit reinforces learning in the pew.
For a worksheet on writing testimonies and a simple method for faith sharing called “The Five Fingered Gospel,” please contact the Church Renewal Lab at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!