A colleague lent to me last June, Get Their Name: Grow Your Church by Building New Relationships authored by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Kay Kotan. I’m just now getting around to reading it. I confess, because she’s asked for it back.

get-their-nameIt’s a fantastic little book offering practical steps to sharing faith, building healthy, spiritual relationships, and growing a healthy church. Once I read, “The average UMC (United Methodist Church) member invites someone to come to church once every 38 years,” I couldn’t put the book down.

Simply put, they present evangelism in the following levels:

Elementary Evangelism is meeting new people through service…handing out water bottles, cleaning up a park, and being intentional about “adding the Good Word to your deeds.” Good deeds are merely good deeds if not sharing the why “We want to share God’s love with you because God’s love is available to everyone, including you.”

Middle School Evangelism is sharing life and faith through small groups with people you already know. Middle schoolers rarely step outside their comfort groups, but will do most anything in a small group.

High School Evangelism is sharing your faith through testimony of recent experiences for the building up of the persons around you. You want to share your story where you are safe for the sole purposes of offering hope to those listening.

College Evangelism is inviting others to worship who you do not know. In college, I recall inviting and being invited often to group gatherings and events on campus simply because we were within earshot.

The authors go on to share that until we are confident in giving testimony, most are fearful of inviting others to church. And when was the last time that testimonies were shared in the worship setting or even in the Sunday school setting? It’s been my experience that we are more about taking in more general information and spitting it back out, rwho-what-when-where-why-howather than learning how to tell our story or His story over the last week. I was challenged early in my walk that when asked “Why God?” my story can’t begin, “Well…when I was 10 years old…” My testimony should be no older than the bread in my breadbox.

The goal is to begin “real conversations with real people to build real relationships that lead to a real experience with Jesus Christ in the gathered community.”

The challenge: Have I built in enough margin, extra white space, in my day to make a new friend? Or am I so caught up in going to the next thing that I can’t make time to be interested in new people; making sure to concentrate on the other person’s story; building trust in who they are; making sure my questions are about them; resisting making the conversation about me and my story?friend

The authors were kind enough to lay out steps of how to begin a conversation with someone I don’t know because, “People looking for a faith community are not looking for friendly people, but for friends.”

As in Adam Hamilton’s Leading Beyond the Walls, we’d do well to offer a short (two-minute elevator story) response to the following 3 questions:

1. Why God? “God has been active in my life from when I was a kid and has always wanted good for me, but my free will is alive and active within me…Most of the bad that has happened in my life is because of choices made for me or those I’ve made on my own when I am not paying attention to the life lessons taught in the Scriptures…My church gives me the relationships and support to keep my free will on track.”

2. Why Church? “God has designed us to experience energy when we participate in community…God is best and most easily experienced in the faith community….We are the bridge to the gathered community….Then the Holy Spirit can do the heavy lifting.”

3. Why My Church? “God has designed us to experience energy when we participate in community….we need a gathered experience…we need to feel the win…going in the same direction….cheering for the same result…in the company of others with a spirit of “YES!””

A few statements stopped me in my tracks:

  • “97% of all newcomers to a church have had a major life transition in the last two months.” (From The Race to Reach Out by Douglas T Anderson & Michael J. Coyner) Everyone has a story. Little do we know what life transition will bring someone through the doors.  Am I asking questions with genuine curiosity to learn another’s story?
  • “The #1 roadblock for connected people inviting unconnected people to worship is that they are not confident in the guest experience.”  This is where radical hospitality comes in. Where our hospitality is going beyond expectation, beyond the average, beyond what we’ve always done, beyond the typical Sunday morning handshake experience.
  • “Guests arrive early or late, but rarely on time.  Be prepared.”  Think guest, not a visitor (when was the last time I had a visitor in my home…never…I have guests).

I’m going to start asking questions of the people I DO know at my church and the ones I DON’T. It’s the beginning of shands_friendsharing testimony.  And I’m ready to make some new friends in the Lord.

Lord, let me not just be friendly, but be willing and build in life-space to make new friends in the Lord.  Amen

Thanks, Cindy…you can have your book back now.