Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Telling the Story Part 5: Getting the Conversation Started

"But I wouldn't know what to say."
That's the number one response I hear when suggesting that people start talking about their faith.
It's scary to try something new. What if we do it wrong? We might offend somebody. 
 Yes, we could possibly offend somebody. On the other hand, we could also inspire somebody who really needs to be inspired. We could help put someone on a new and exciting life path. We could grow closer to people we don't know very well, and put ourselves on a new and exciting life path. 
The goal of talking about your faith is not to win converts. It is to simply share what you understand as good news. Whether or not people agree that it is good news, and whether they choose to do anything about it is up to them. Most people who start coming to church do so because someone they know invited them. It is awkward to invite someone to church "out of the blue," but if you talk about your experiences in church and someone expresses interest in it, it becomes easy and perfectly natural to issue an invitation. 

In talking about faith, the key is to speak about your own experience. Try to keep it positive.  The main reason people are uncomfortable hearing people talk about faith is that a lot of religious people broadcast their judgmental attitudes in the media. On social media accounts people have made comments to me like, "Since you are a Christian, I assumed you were hateful."  That saddens me but it doesn't really surprise me.
Also, think twice about venting to non-church members about church conflicts. Churches are made up of human beings, and churches experience conflicts. Church conflicts can be painful for church members, and people need to work through them. It's fine to acknowledge that your church has experienced or is experiencing conflict, but if you are presenting only a negative view about your church to others you are feeding the conflict.

When talking about your faith, use "I" statements such as "I feel," "I like," "I appreciate." Avoid "you" statements, especially ones like, "you should," "you ought," and "you need."

When talking to people who are not part of your church, don't go out of your way to mention your faith. That will most likely create an awkward moment.  However, many people find that the more you talk about your faith with people who share your faith, the more you will naturally find yourself compelled to talk about your faith outside of church.  It is important to follow any ethical rules that apply where you work or volunteer. 

I've come up with some icebreaker phrases to use in talking about your faith.

With other people in your church:
"I really appreciated _____ in church today."
"I've always liked it when we do _______ in church."
"I would like to see more _______ happen in our church."
"I've always wanted to try/start ________ in our church."
"I've been praying a lot about _______."
"I'm starting to feel that God is calling me to ________."

With people who are not part of your church:
"I will pray for [your problem.]"
"My church has a prayer list. Would you like us to pray about [your problem]?"
"I"m still praying about [your problem.] How is it going?"
"I don't know what to think/do about [a personal problem/problem in the world.] I'm praying about it a lot."
"I'm in a good mood because in church we did ______ yesterday."
"I'm looking forward to _______ coming up at church."
"My pastor/Bible Study group/friends at church were just talking about that."

Talking about faith sounds scary, but many people find that once they start it becomes rewarding and fun and they never want to stop. Whatever you are on your journey of talking about your faith, I wish you well.
This is part of a series. Read the introductory post here:
Read Part 2, about Offering Hospitality, here.
Part 3, about Telling the Story without Words, here.
Part 4, Talking about Faith, is here.

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