Briefly I went through the background and then some basic principles of what I believe is a Biblical approach to walking with people on their spiritual journey. After that we invited the congregation to divide into small groups and answer three questions. These were:
1. Who is on your heart at this time? This could be someone for whom they have been praying for a long time, or maybe someone with whom they have recently made a connection.
2. What groups of people are on your heart at this time? This could be "the elderly" or "the homeless".
Neither of these proved too hard for anyone. We had a big board at the front with a line on it to represent the spiritual journey and we wrote the names of folk down on post-its and stuck them on the board along the line. Not very scientific, but it served to illustrate the point that every person can be in a different place on their spiritual journey and that means that we will need to do something different for them to help them along the way towards Jesus Christ.
The third question stumped almost everyone.
3. What should we do differently to help these people take another step on their spiritual journey?
Over at withreach.com there's an interesting quote from a survey done about church credibility in the community. I'll simply quote the thing in full (if you want to go to the webpage it's here):
- A large religious publisher asked on a nationwide survey what churches ought to do more of in order to be credible and true to purpose. Among respondents who are active in a church, the predominant answers focused on sharing Christ (and on worship). The predominant answer from non-church attenders:
Do more for the poor and the hungry
We often validate ourselves by outreach, by the Great Commission. The people we want to reach validate us by the Great Commandment.
But it’s slightly more subtle than that.
The subtly has to do with the very concept of outreach. Outreach categorizes people as “in” or “out,” and targets the ones who are out. We tend to be very skilled at this. We name committees and annual campaigns “outreach,” we have “outreach” training, buy “outreach” programs. But few people like to be targeted.
What people do respond to, is when we seek to come alongside, connect with them naturally and at a meaningful level, develop community with them, listen for their heart’s dream as well as their hurts and needs, discern what God may already have begun within them, and journey with them toward God and toward God’s dreams for them and for us.
As to the matter of doing more for the poor and hungry, people in contemporary America – think of your neighbors – are far more likely to respond to being asked to help, than to be the “target” of our charity. “Withreach” applies to the Great Commandment as well.
Perhaps the nuts and bolts of the answer lies in the coming alongside and the listening.
I'm looking forward to next week when we talk about building great Christian community. Let the revolution begin!!