Here’s a sample from Makes You Wonder: My Story. The goal of “How God is in me” is to tell the story of my personal experience of Christ, and to uncover its power to engage the heart of others.
We must tell our personal experiences of the living Christ, and the difference he makes to our lives. These days, to be a Christian is to be different. People have been turning off church for generations. IT is easy to leave it behind – just get too busy with good causes. So if you are here, you must have a good reason to stand against the tide.
The Key Question
Therefore, our question for this exercise is:
“WHY ARE YOU STILL A CHRISTIAN?” We are NOT asking why you go to church nor why you BECAME a Christian. We want to hear why you continue today. We don’t want to hear your theory on why some historic churches are declining, just say ‘this is my story only’. Keep it simple Avoid Christian jargon unless you explain it.
The leader shares their own story by way of example.
Here is what we will do. Soon, our first step, when I tell you, we will form groups of 3, introduce ourselves around ever so quickly. You will have one minute to think what to say. Then each person gets one minute each to answer the question: “I am still a Christian because…….” There will then be two more steps, none of which will embarrass you!
Step Two: After five minutes, check on progress. In a moment, we will combine two groups, and get six. What will you do then? Each of you will take a turn to tell the group of six, in a one sentence summary, about the person who was on your right in the group of 3, why THEY are still a Christian. When you report, use this beginning – “(Name) is still a Christian because…….” I will give you five minutes to get your stories straight. DO this BEFORE you form sixes. (This helps with listening and focussing skills.) Five minutes, THEN form sixes and go around the circle. It takes only about five minutes, then go to step three.
Step Three. Everyone to move back together. Now, say the same to everyone together what you just told the six, more or less, and I will write them up.
Under the title: “Because…”, write up clearly and legible on the board everyone’s given reasons. Make a list, using their one summary statements. Use their own words as exactly as possible. Amalgamate answers only if space on the board is limited). Write them not as first person singular but as first person plural – in other words, change” I” and “me/my” to “We” and “us/our” . When all have contributed, change the title to something like “O Lord, we know you are real because..” Invite people to stand and read it together as a prayer-litany, pointing at the place for reading as you go down the list, led in a clear voice by the leader.
Discussion Time – now what can we learn from this?
1. Just recall what just happened here. What were your feelings as you read through that prayer just then? Leader should jot down the feelings expressed. They are usually a small number of quite strong and diverse feelings. I call them ‘spirited fellings’. Is this the sort of heart response in others that they would like to have in their faith sharing? They have done it already! They are touching the human heart-story. Quote St. Augustine (4th century) “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.” What more could you want in another’s response to what you were sharing? You are powerful evangelists.
2. Let’s look briefly at the variety of reasons given and observe that God does not work with people according to any one formula. Each by name receives personal attention and personal relationship. So, there is no formula in faith-sharing except to get personal.
3. Sometimes people comment that their response feelings(discussion #2), after saying the litany together, are shaped only because they are Christians, and that non christians would not feel like this. If you go through the list, however, it is not hard to show how the central element in each person’s statement is not a religious statement but a yearning of every human heart. So, we christians are more confident to identify our feeling but any human heart will almost certainly have these same spirited feelings. Non christians may come out mixed with other feelings of threat or skepticism, but the stronger these are expressed, probably, the more deeply they were touched!
I believe we have established that you can share your faith with gentleness and power, genuinely, and under pressure. You have got what it takes.
Some Notes about this exercise
People brought up in a christian home often have difficulty with a question like this, saying “ I always have been. I couldn’t be anything else.” Try something like this: “Remember that many children of christian homes have turned away. What holds you in the faith?”
This is usually a strong experience. Take a break afterwards.
Often, People often want to write down the litany to show others. OK, but it does lose something taken out of context, when it turns into words without a face behind them.
Occasionally, someone has not answered the question at all. They say “ I am still a Christian because of so-and-so”, or they say “I am because I am”. They are having difficulty. Gently probe for more heartfelt reasons, ask for instance, “what would you lose if you walked away from personal faith?”.
If time permits, discuss these
“How difficult was it to put your story into words?” Because of the church’s history of silencing the congregation, we need practice, but we do not have to be polished before we begin. It is more important to prepare the heart than prepare the words.
“Were you able to listen to another person’s story and hear it accurately?” God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we might act in those proportions. Listening skills are important and are taught in other courses. Throughout Makes You Wonder, it is just as important to ask a good question as to give a good answer, to listen for what the person is meaning rather than just what they are saying.
“What “blockages” do you feel within yourself to opening your heart in this way?” Encourage people to talk about them in a personal way, with suggestions being called for about what to do about them. Bring them back to the necessity of allowing their love for people and their love for Jesus to be a more important motivator than their personal fears.
These discussions may influence your selection of other exercises.
Other Key Questions to try
“What difference has Jesus made in your life?”
“What is it about your experience of Jesus Christ that your neighbours just can’t do without?” (from Thomas Bandy)
What would you lose if you lost Jesus?
“If you were put on trial for being a Christian, what evidence would they bring to convict you?”
(If some non Christians are present) “What is the most engaging aspect of Christianity for you right now?”