Members of Hope in Christ Church, a Christian Reformed congregation in Bellingham, Wash., have been gathering on a monthly basis to work through nine arts of spiritual conversation. It’s a step toward growing in evangelism as part of the congregation’s focus on renewal.
The church held the first of these sessions, focused on the skill of noticing, last spring. The rest of the nine skills, which they continue to work through following summer and Christmas breaks, are praying, listening, asking questions, loving, welcoming, facilitating, serving together, and sharing. The idea of the nine arts was developed by Q place, an organization that helps Christians connect with the wider culture.
“How many times don’t we ask people ‘How’s it going today?’ What we expect to (and want to) hear is a response along the lines of ‘Good’ or ‘OK.’ Any other answer requires us to care, take time, and listen, and we often don’t want to,” said one participant in the conversation training. “But noticing and then listening and then loving . . . that takes serious investment in time and resources.”
Hope in Christ Church started these training sessions as one outcome of following the Vitality Pathway for church renewal begun in the fall of 2015. Embraced by the Evangelical Covenant Church and the Reformed Church of America, Vitality Pathway is a tool supporting local churches on their journey to being healthy missional communities. Three Christian Reformed congregations in the regional group Classis Pacific Northwest are also engaged in the process.
“As we have moved beyond the diagnostic sections of the pathway, we began establishing plans to grow in our evangelistic hunger and skill to take our hope in Christ out to the world,” said pastor Scott Roberts. One of the first steps is a commitment “to gaining some training and practice in developing our ability to have spiritual conversations with others.” As the skills are learned, all of the participants are encouraged and expected to practice the newly learned skill over the next month, and to bring back their stories to the next training session.
Roberts said telling each other of their experiences is beginning to change the way church members share their faith. “This sharing of evangelism encounters is new to our congregation and is beginning to spur others in the church to pray and share.”
Roberts said about seven families of 50 or so from the congregation are participating fully in the training. He said he is hopeful that “though [the number of participants is] small, it is enough to start a culture shift.”