I have done the introductory workshop for Significant Conversations (a grassroots approach to evangelism) in a number of churches during the past year, with far greater interest and response than anticipated. The workshop was initially designed for church boards so that they could evaluate the approach and decide whether or not to present the concept to the congregation. Three churches in a row were so comfortable with the idea that the workshop was opened up to anyone interested.
At the first church we set up three tables expecting 3-4 extra people besides the board members: over 25 showed up. The second church phoned three days before the meeting, “We heard that [the first] church opened up the meeting to the whole congregation. Can we do that as well?” Once again, we set up one row of tables, expecting maybe 10 other people who would be interested, and for a second time, over 25 came including some young people who interacted with the material reflecting their own conversations with friends at school.
Some people learn and take corrective measures. The rest of us ignore the obvious. At the third church, anyone who was interested in Significant Conversations was invited to remain after the morning service for lunch and the workshop. We ran short of pizza and had to rearrange the tables and chairs to accommodate the 30+ people – nearly half the congregation – who came and interacted with the grassroots evangelism concepts.
Why this interest?
Why this interest? It may be that believers are anxious to find a way to interact on a deeper and more significant level with their friends, colleagues and relatives. I suspect that people want to know how to talk to the people in their lives about important issues. Although I cannot speak definitively, here are some reasons for the unexpected interest that resonate with me.
1) It is difficult in Canada to talk about spiritual things. Religion and faith are taboo subjects. A fellow believer involved in Significant Conversations made friends with his neighbor. The neighbor laid down conditions for the relationship: “No discussions about religion or politics.” After a year of interaction, the neighbor is only now showing signs that he would like to compromise on that rule.
2) The spiritual environment has changed over the last few decades. In previous years a question such as “Do you believe in God?” would be met with a straightforward response, “yes” or “no.” Now the answers are far more complicated, “Which god?” “I have a spirit-force to help me,” “God is in us all,” “All paths are God’s paths.” Believers want help to navigate the complex worldviews they are confronted with.
3) People feel alone. There has been an unspoken expectation in churches that once a person leaves the four walls of the church, they are on their own. But many want the prayer, support and guidance of other believers. They feel daunted by the thoughtful questions they face and want to be equipped to respond in ways that will continue the conversation and reveal the hope that we have in Christ.
4) We live in a multicultural environment. The ethnic mix of the surrounding neighborhood is changing, while the ethnic makeup of the church tends to remain constant. People are unfamiliar with the cross-cultural dynamics of outreach and would like guidance.
Interested? Check out the Significant Conversations webpage or contact Mark via the form below.