If the people of your church felt equipped to share their faith, do you think they would?
A pastor from the Chicago area recently shared this story with us:
I realized the need and wanted everyone in my church to be directly involved in the Mission of God. So, one Sunday morning I preached one of my best sermons! I urged my people on, I called them to action, I told them that they didn’t want to be the religious leaders walking by someone on the side of the road who needed their help, and I even laid on some guilt. At the end of it all, a good friend walked up to me and told me how inspiring my sermon was, but then added, “Jeff, we’ve heard a lot of different versions of this sermon over the past couple of years. It’s convicting. I get it. You want me to get out of my seat and make a disciple. There’s only one problem with your approach: You’re not showing me how to do that. You need to teach me.”
It was like a stab to my chest. He was right. I did lots of inspiring and laid out many passionate pleas–maybe even frustrations– but I wasn’t equipping my people.
If being missional is about being sent and going, then the church needs to be equipped in knowing how.
Author and pastor Peter Scazzero confirms what Pastor Jeff learned that Sunday: “Telling people to love better and more is not enough. They need practical skills incorporated into their spiritual formation.”
So what are they? What are the practical skills that can equip the saints for ministry in order that all who are part of the body of Christ can do God’s work, build up the church and continue until all come to unity and faith and knowledge of God’s Son? (Ephesians 4:12-13)
Is it any surprise that we would find our answer in Jesus?
Jesus’ simple behaviors
Over and over in Jesus’ life, we see simple behaviors that reflect that he was on his Father’s mission–the same mission we want to equip believers to be on. The way Jesus moved provides a window as to how he was on that mission: relationally. The way Jesus shared about life with his Father was through “questions and actions that build bridges and encourage trust. With simple relational skills, Jesus demonstrated love and compassion…with rippling spiritual consequences.” (The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations ©2016, p. 23)
Consider how Jesus initiated a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, recorded in John 4. He intentionally went out of his way to engage with her. He took time to notice her. He asked her a simple question…. He did not need to interact with this woman, but he did. He engaged her naturally and winsomely–not in a way that was weird or canned….
In other encounters, we see Jesus intentionally notice people like Zacchaeus (Luke 19) and the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5). We read of Jesus’ regular practice of prayer (Luke 5:16, among others) and the apostles’ devotion to prayer (Acts 2:42). We observe Jesus listening and asking questions, intent on engaging in meaningful conversations about God with people such as his disciples at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16: 13-16) and a blind beggar in Jericho (Luke 18). Then we read of the early church walking as Jesus did, on mission with God, practicing the same behaviors as Jesus. Think about Philip asking questions and facilitating an interaction with the Ethiopian (Acts 8) or Peter noticing a beggar and reacting with compassion and healing (Acts 3). (The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, p. 22-23)
The equipping journey!
Could becoming equipped look like learning about, applying, and practicing these patterns and behaviors of Jesus? We have identified 9 practices that we believe are at the roots of the equipping journey.
Why not consider having your church preach through a 9-week sermon series on the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations while smaller groups work through Practicing the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations: Primer together, to practice what they are learning? We are confident that these resources will not only inspire your church, but equip it to be the loving, intentional presence of God in your community.