How One Church Improved Its Conversation About Christ
Several years ago, we at New Heights Christian Church of Kent, WA, took David Bryant’s challenge to listen to how much of our church’s conversations were about the shared hope we have in Jesus. The results, admittedly, were disappointing. We wanted to be talking more about Christ as a church. So we began experimenting with strategies to foster conversations about Christ with fellow believers. At first it was hard to keep the conversations going, but we learned, and we tried new things, and now we have transformed the way our church talks about Christ.
What We Do
Even if we were prepared to speak from a Bible passage exulting in the supremacy of our Lord, the other person most often didn’t have the ability to contribute much to the conversation because he or she lacked the same preparation. So as we pondered this secondary problem of not being able to keep conversations about Jesus going, we remembered that a traditional order of worship would include a Scripture reading to complement the sermon passage. So we asked, “Could we transform this reading of that text as a congregation into an opportunity to also talk together in groups of two to four persons about our personal highlights from that text?”
Choose Scriptures With “Low Hanging Fruit”
Since we were not following a denominational format for the Lord’s Day Scripture readings, we had the freedom to choose our own “worship texts.” So, we decided to start by using Scriptures with “low hanging fruit.” In other words, we chose texts where the supremacy of Christ is right on the surface and didn’t take much digging to find.
Use A Common Text For Shared Experience
Armed with a common text about Jesus, we repurposed another traditional element that is often part of the order of worship, the “passing of the peace,” or the less formal “greeting time.” This combination provided everyone with the same content from which to then talk with each other about Jesus from his Word.
Share A Highlight From The Text
Now, as a regular part of our worship service, we invite everyone who is able to stand and read aloud together our worship text. After the reading, we pause for a moment to give everyone an opportunity to identify a highlight from the text. We then invite people to find one, two or three others with whom to share their highlight. After a couple of minutes, we call everyone back together.
Increase The Visibility And Expectation
The worship text is projected on the screen and is printed out in the bulletin for everyone to use during their conversations. Additionally, each week we include the next Sunday’s “Worship text” in the song sheet so everyone has that Scripture passage a week in advance for the upcoming Lord’s Day service. They know what to expect.
What We Learned
What have we learned from our experiment to make Jesus the subject of more of our conversations while at church?
Conversations “Inside” Fuel Conversations “Outside”
First of all, now when we enter a conversation after the service, we no longer feel awkward about talking with someone about Jesus since we all have already practiced talking about Jesus from a common text in the service. No longer are we putting someone on the spot to speak of Jesus because it is viewed as a continuation of a conversation that was already started during the worship service. And, for those in our congregation who want to speak more of Christ while at church, we have “set the table,” so to speak, for them to do this with anyone at church that day.
It Takes Practice To See Christ In Scripture
Second, we’ve noticed that it takes practice to see Christ in all of Scripture, and more so from Old Testament texts, where it’s easier to focus on the greatness of God instead of the supremacy of Christ directly. While we want to avoid generic “Jesus-free” God talk, we do remember that we are Trinitarians and don’t consider it a failure to talk about the Father or the Spirit as well as the Son.
Explanation Defrays Awkwardness
Third, some people have been uncomfortable being asked to speak to each other as part of a worship service. Surprising to us, this objection has more often been expressed by a regular attendee on behalf of potential guests, rather than by our guests themselves. Nonetheless, we go out of our way to tell guests what we are doing and why we are doing it before inviting everyone to discuss the worship text. We also tell our guests to feel free to simply listen in, or participate as they feel comfortable, since the rest of us are now “experts” at sharing from the worship text.
Delightfully, many who have joined the church since we combined and repurposed our worship texts and the “passing of the peace” have been attracted by this practice. It has improved the relational aspect of our worship service, including our relationships with our guests. Having something biblical and substantive to talk about with a member or a guest allows us to go beyond the simple greeting and exchange of names. So, let’s talk about Jesus more, especially while at church together.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Micah Adamson & Dan Folden
Micah Adamson is presently the Associate Pastor at New Heights Christian Church (NHCC) of Kent, WA, while working half-time as a Tech Support Engineer for Microsoft. He is scheduled to become the senior pastor at NHCC early in 2016.
Dan Folden is the founding pastor of NHCC, who received his D.Min. from the Northwest Graduate School of the Ministry in 1997. He still maintains a carpet business on the side to keep him engaging with his community. Dan’s four-part series on The Current Resume of Jesus Christ is posted on ChristNow.com.