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MYW Leadership

10 Things Christians Should Say More Often

Huffington Post Posted: 09/01/2013 8:26 pm

By Christian Platt

I had a series a while back about the Christian Cliches that we should drop from our lexicon, and since then I’ve had people ask what they should be saying instead. So here’s a list of handy phrases to help bring followers of Jesus into a post-Christendom, 21st-century world.

1. "I’m Sorry." – There’s plenty of hurt in the world related to Christianity, and even though we may not personally be responsible for that damage, it’s amazing how far an apology will go. Even if we’re only acknowledging the hurt and disenfranchisement, we should show some regret that something of which we are a part has contributed to someone’s suffering.

2. "How can I help?" – Sometimes we have a bad habit of diagnosing problems and coming up with the solution without actually sitting down and talking with the folks we’re supposedly helping. Though well intended, this can come off as arrogant, and can also end up being a waste of time and resources. Yes, it’s more vulnerable to ask an open-ended question like "How can I help?’ since the answer might require much more of us than we planned on. But that’s the risk of doing real servant work.

3. "I don’t know." – I’ve listed this one before, but it bears repeating. Some of us have been raised with the misapprehension that we always have to have an answer to every question having to do with our faith. But better than pat, rehearsed (or worse, pulled-out-of-our-asses-on-the-fly) answers is the humility of admitting we have no idea sometimes.

4. "I could be wrong." – This goes along with #3, as one of the most damaging things in any faith tradition – or in any cultural system, for that matter – is the idolatry of certainty. When we hold so fast to an idea that the people involved take second chair to our certainty, we’ve created a space where pain and alienation are sown, rather than compassion and reconciliation.

5. "What do you think?" – A third in this theme of what Tony Jones calls "epistemic humility," when it comes to scripture at least, though asking people their thoughts on the Christian faith, the Bible or anything else is a healthy practice for all involved. In fact, I learn more about my faith sometimes from non-Christians than I do from those who are so close to it (like me) that they become blind to the problems, right in front of us. Any good Christian should keep some non-Christian friends on retainer to help keep them in check and lend them some necessary perspective from time to time.

6. "I love you." – We have the best of intentions when telling others about God or Jesus, but unless this is already a central theme in your life, talking about how God loves you can come off as strangely abstract and a little bit crazy. Rather than speaking for God, it’s best if we take the risk and simply speak for ourselves. It sounds nice to say "God loves you," but it’s a real and important risk to say "I love you."

7. "Tell me more…" – Showing genuine interest in the lives and stories of others is the foundation of Christ-like family. So often we sit right next to people – be it at church, work, school or elsewhere – whose stories we know little or nothing about. Whereas in the past, Christendom’s aim was mainly assimilation, a post-Christendom world requires us to be willing to be changed as much as we seek to affect change in our relationships with one another. It’s no longer about eradicating differences, but rather, it’s about cultivating a love that is stronger than those differences.

8. "That just sucks." – This goes along with the Christian compulsion to try and fix everything. But if I’ve learned anything from thirteen years of marriage, it’s that solutions don’t always go as far as empathy.

9. "Let’s give it a try." – Along with presiding over decades of prolific growth (both numerically and institutionally) many Christians began to believe that they were primarily stewards and guardians of the institution rather than preparers of the way for a divinely-inspired kingdom on earth. It’s in the nature of institutions to resist change, however, whereas preparation is all about making room and clearing space in anticipation of something new. As Paul says, our faith requires a childlike "What’s next?" kind of openness, rather than leaning so heavily on the spirit-killing mantra of "But we’ve always done it this way."

10. Say nothing at all– Filling awkward silences with chatter is endemic in our entire western culture, but Christians are particularly guilty of whipping out the cliches when there’s dead air. Sometimes the best prescription is simply to be present, or maybe to listen. Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we have been commissioned with fixing everything. We could start by adding intentional silence more often into our own spiritual practices, just to get used to how it feels.

MAKES YOU WONDER

WHY IS IT GOOD FOR CHURCH PEOPLE

TO DO THIS COURSE?

Christians need to re-connect with unchurched people, and we need new ways to do this.

Why? Here are a few of the reasons that really matter:

In former generations, you could assume that your friends and acquaintances knew something about the Christian basis of our society, its laws and its community values. When people shared their faith, the focus could be on ‘personal commitment’.

This simply does not fit any more. We need to come home to our true selves as Christians.

We all know about the great ‘declines’ – of church attendance, church weddings, scripture in schools, baptisms, Christian values of money and sex, knowledge of scripture, reading of scripture, respect for authority, and the acceptance that religion has a place in a community. This is no Christian society nor is there a general acceptance of the place of religion. It takes us longer to earn trust and to provide basic information of Jesus’ life death and resurrection. It takes time to open up and correct the false ideas that are doing the rounds. And how can we discuss the implications when lots of people just don’t make any ‘commitments’ to anything except their mortgage – they just shop and change. It’s a consumer society.

Alpha and Christianity Explained have done a good job, but there are three things needed before people can really gel with them:

1. Many people can’t accept that quoting the Bible settles any question. They do not know what it is about, they know it can be quoted to suit your own ends, and therefore they can not yet accept its authority. Makes You Wonder does not just quote the Bible , it uses the text of scripture as a source of hope and wisdom. We hope that by doing this honestly, participants will build up a feeling for its value.

2. Many people aren’t confident about spiritual stuff. They suspect it might be just your vivid imagination. It may feel like visiting a foreign land – a lot of it doesn’t make any sense – and they conclude that they are not the religious type. Makes You Wonder asks specific questions about their own experiences and, in the feedback , shows that spiritual qualities and values are already present, fairly self-evident and already within their experience.

3. Many people, even believers, can’t see what the God-dimension has to do with normal life. Their faith can’t connect with the roles, trials, decisions and conversations of Monday to Saturday. Lost for words, they find it too hard to share their faith in any relevant way. Makes You Wonder gives Christians some exposure and experience in talking about faith in new ways that are relevant, human, meaningful, gentle and respectful.

Lastly, no change will happen without a more significant prayerfulness. The widespread resistance to this need is perhaps the clearest indication yet that in the church our theory is good but our practise is poor. We simply cannot take God’s mission forward if all we talk about is demographics, community needs, budgets and buildings. If we hope to share our vision with others, Christians need to look into and learn from our own experience – with less censure, more experimentation, more provocation, more biblical and less noise. We might find we are more at peace, more attractive to conversation with others, just more lovely to be around, a goodly place. Such prayer is subversive. Such a peace is infectious.

We need that. We won’t get it simply by thinking warmly in this direction. We need to work together to allow fresh light to shine from our experiences. We see the “earthen vessels all too clearly, maybe even cynically. We need to catch a fresh appreciation of the value of “the treasure” inside.

When?

Where?

How?

Registration process?

Contact for questions ?

Here are some suggestions about how to use MYW exercises in your existing programmes. Start with your own small group, or whoever wants to start. Prove it there first.

1. Sunday church sessions

If your congregation is around fifty or less, like the vast majority of churches in Australia, instead of a sermon, do one of these exercises. Each Sunday do one more, once or twice each month. Some of the sessions can be adapted to sermon input.

2. Regular sessions for a social service team.

To keep the team reminded of the evangelistic edge to all church life, and to increase their capacity to cross over with permission, introduce these exercises to their training, on a regular basis. When “clients” request an explanation of why we do what we do, there is no barrier to what they can say. An imposed talk or a pressure to attend church will be counter-productive. You can put up posters which say “Ask me why?” OR “God loves you and so do I.”

3. Prayers for the Lost in church.

Many churches pray for everything except those whom they would love to see come to follow Jesus. Ask the minister, worship team or whoever you need to , to make it a regular structured and listed part of Sunday’s “prayers for others”. Make them holistic, not just scalp-hunting prayers, an expression of all our love.

4. Say HHii! Month

Also known as the “Cancel Everything” month. Once or twice a year, instead of inviting the evangelist to town, invite the congregation to become the visiting evangelist. They are to invite their friends in, no excuses. Simple as that.

Prepare with special prayer groups , special Sunday prayers, and Prayer Triplets. Set up the sort of special event to which you feel you CAN invite your house guests. Print really nice invitations.

Cancel for the entire month ALL other church group meetings and committee meetings, in order to make time to Say Hhii! H=hospitality at home. I= Intercession and Invitation. Get really serious about this , or it will remain an optional extra in their life.

Have an Alpha course or something similar ready to follow up the Say Hhii month, so that people who come to your special event can be invited to attend it. This structure teaches the congregation where their particular responsibility lies.

In summary, the sequence goes: Book up the month of no-meetings. Prepare one special invitational event at the end of that month. Print and distribute really special invitation cards to it. Set up special prayer. Now, stay home with friends or make new friends! Don’t be seen at church. Special Event. Follow-up course. Evaluation. Set the dates for the next one.

5. For Group Leaders for Alpha, Emmaus Walk, or similar courses.

Many courses follow the Alpha model of a friendly-dinner and discussion approach, however there is a weakness in the model that MYW addresses. That is, the group leaders are not always at ease, respectful or friendly with their own faith-sharing. The group may be too passive to the DVD talk, or the ill-at-ease leader may talk too much, or answer too many questions. MYW training moves them to the next level, and the effect is multiplied through the groups.

6. A special study series for a small group or a weekend.

Advertise the course for anyone interested, in your church and any others. If you don’t get enough the first time, postpone the course and keep going wider until you get ten to enrol. Ask them what they want to do, where their needs are, and select the exercises accordingly.

Take them away for a weekend to do the bulk of it, and then continue to meet for six weeks. Agree from the outset that you will return and do some more within the year. The effect of this is to say that you mean to check up on how you have all continued to implement the learnings.

7. Working with an inter-church team on a mission project.

This works the same as for #6, but they will need to take a bit of time at the beginning to say why their church wants to come and do this. They may already know each personally from the town, through business, schools, sport, etc, but this is different so do not miss it out. It builds a deeper commonality among them. Then, their different emphases and traditions, and ways of praying will not get in the way.

8. In connection with routine family life and working life.

If you are talking about living the faith at home or at work, you will have topics to do with relationships and ethics. Throw in one or two of the MYW case-study exercises too, tailored to the situation. That sense of practical context will help very much.

9. In preparation for involvement in a community festival.

As with preparing mission teams above, the festival team need preparation of not inly their programme but their minds and hearts. The casual activities of community festivals can make it seem too hard to “get serious”. The relaxed approach of these exercise, especially entry and empty points, will provide ways of conversation, and provide new ideas for the content of your displays.

10. In reviewing the ways you can impact your community.

When you do the exercises, especially the entry and empty points, it may suggest new ways to engage with your community. When you do your church future-planning, someone who has done these exercises may passionately get an idea upon how to reach out. Not just in conversation but in action too. You won’t be just doing community welfare work, but entering people’s lives with ALL the love of God, full of gentleness and respect.

Am I the only one to worry that something this easy, this authentic, simply can’t be impressive? can’t bring the changes it describes, can’t move people along very far? Don’t we need someone impressive, something dramatic? MYW will make you wonder!

Let’s say you have been asked by a neighbouring group to lead them in MYW exercises or a Wonder Workshop. How can you go there where you do not people and do that well?

Be warned: In my experience a lot of groups say they would like that sort of help, and then do nothing about it, two people show up (the organiser and her dog) and it is all together a frustrating exercise for all concerned. The following tips may help.

When making arrangements to lead a workshop, check through these things thoroughly with the local organisers. Here I will assume it is a local church, so if it is another group, make the appropriate ‘translations’.

1. Has a decision been made, including who is the local organiser? Or is this a tentative enquiry about what might be involved? Have they seen the leaflet "How to Organise a MYW workshop", in this Leaders Manual or on the website? Are they wanting to vary anything that is suggested there? Do they have any queries?

2. Are the elders and the minister themselves coming? Who is being invited to come? How are they being invited? Are they being approached personally? Can you prepare lists for personal phone invitation? Do not rely on printed publicity. Don’t refer to MYW as another option to add to their lives. Talk about it as a step forward, something we can all gain from, and something we all need to become confident about if the church is to be who we really are into the future. Already in people’s minds before you speak there is fear of being found wanting or a dread of bible-bashing or of another churchy programme which in the real world is irrelevant. The proof will be in the pudding.

3. Maximum of 25, minimum of 8 people. Some one is going to ask whether they can only come for part of the workshop. That will be OK, though not ideal. The whole workshop is composed of a number of exercises, and anyone coming to any one of them will gain something from that one. (I would appreciate it on the day if I knew in advance and if they did not leave part way through a session.) Better to come and gain something than stay away and get nothing.

4. What equipment is needed? It is better to be seated NOT in a church sanctuary, but in a room as relaxed as possible. As facilitator I should be on the same level, not on a stage. I need either a whiteboard at least 6x4feet or a projector screening at least 6x6feet. Let me know which it is and I will bring pens and slides. The room should be comfortable with individual chairs not long pews set in a semi circle of one or more rows , not in straight lines like a bus. Can I have a helper?

5. What hours exactly do you have at your disposal at this event? If they say we have 7-9pm, you do not have two hours. Time will be lost for local catch ups, latecomers, teas, washing up, announcements, worship, e.tc. You do not have to have long morning and afternoon breaks, but be informed if the local group considers that they do.

6. There is a follow up to be organised after six weeks. Can we set the tentative date within the overall church calendar and then check in with participants?

7. Ask for participants to register in advance by name, and set a manageable financial fee according to local custom/need, say $20 per person clear for three sessions (In Australia the red twenty dollar note has the pictures of two leading christians on it!), plus a cost for catering. Why involve money? Two reasons. First, a facilitator may not be paid by some other means for doing this sort of work – they are ‘worthy of their hire’ as scripture says (and believe me, they won’t get rich doing this)! I was told some years ago by a senior corporate trainer that the MYW workshop that he was enjoying was of a standard to command a fee of $2000 per person per day. It puts $20 into perspective, doesn’t it. Churches almost never pay commercial rates, so I suggest they take THEIR usual ‘visiting preacher’s fee’, given when they come to lead a one hour service, and use that as their measure. SO, if we are holding a six-hour workshop, charge six times the normal preacher’s fee. Crude but measured.

Secondly, travelling costs for the facilitator are to be borne by the congregation where the workshop is to be held. Agree on this rate, which at its most basic is roughly twice the actual fuel cost, in order to cover servicing and vehicle on-costs. There may be some travel and copying expenses, possibly accomodation. All costs will be underwritten by the congregation, who takes the responsibility of any shortfall. If there is a surplus, you may care to donate it to MYW (through the website-Paypal), and we will use it for those places where there is a shortfall. In this way we are helping each other to move forward.

8. It is good if the local group can appoint a hospitality-helper or two – to set up the room, take registrations and tidy up after breaks and/or lunch. In this way both you and the participants can just get on with the work. This person may be one who is interested to help but not ready to be a participant.

9. Feedback/evaluation sheets should be distributed at the end of the workshop (see the form in this Manual). The facilitator will read them very soon after, and within one week will report them to the local church leaders, pointing out any requests for further action. Remind them that these requests are now in their hands. Then send to MYW.

10. Say to the organiser ‘Please put this workshop as a prayer point in your church notice sheet. Can you ask your praying-people specifically to make the workshop a matter of daily prayer. Will you (coordinator) personally do the same? I too will be in prayer for you. Don’t hesitate to contact me about anything you find you are wondering about.’

11. Near to time set for the follow-up meeting, call the local coordinator to see what they are going to do next. If it has all fallen over, name it, and discuss how to go forward.

Many people find one or two of these points hard to discuss, especially the money. Some organisers find it too hard to get down to details. If so, put it in a physical letter, using these eleven points as your basis. You may find you will need to educate the local church in what is involved in something like this.

My experience is that in the course of someone’s life as it is already, God has been alive and at work. With a bit of help from me (and you) we can help them to reframe their experience, and understand that God is not outside their experience or imagination.

We have heard that contemporary post-something people are interested in ‘spirituality’. However, in my experience, while they may possibly buy a book on the topic, they probably will not front up to talk about it.

Use more concrete topics. The following list of exercises can become part of a dinner table conversation, or a conversation with parents at a church play group or with op shop volunteers, or a devotional at an event for review of programme with church-agency employees/volunteers. You see where this is leading.

For an experiential approach, use any of the Your Story sessions except Hearing You.

For a more media-mind approach, any of the Our Story sessions.

It is good to make a small start and then see where the real questions take you. Do not plan out a series beyond a beginning two or three topics if no one has said they want them.

There are some more resources to help you in advertising at the end of this module and on the website.

The Wonder Workshop

gentle exercise for the soul

A GENERAL INVITATION

FOR NON-CHURCH PEOPLE

What makes you wonder? If you know the answer, how often do you stop to wonder at it? Sorry but we are just fishing – we all know there is something more.

It has huge outcomes. Our huge rate of youth suicide is acknowledged as primarily a matter of hopelessness rather than homelessness. Increased terrorism closer to home has impacted our minds despite our bravest efforts. Relationships have lost so much resilience that they resemble consumer items with use-by dates.

It is good that in recent decades we have moved away from massive obedience to institutions. The spiritual searching of this generation has come up with more self awareness, which is good. But it still has not satisfied “this longing in our hearts”. We still haven’t found what we are looking for.

We have had church institutions, and church scandals, we have had church unity and church disagreements, we have had new age and ancient wisdom, but we know that we are made for something more than this.

There are signs throughout the last half century that Christianity has been re-learning its own value and contributing in new ways. Keeping the faith, they are changing the structures. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King are just some of the newsworthy new faces of Christianity on the world stage. As a result, Christianity is growing rapidly in South America, Africa, the Sub Continent, Korea and mainland China. By contrast, the church in the western nations is infected with cynicism and despondency. What have they got that we have not got?

Simply put, the spirituality of Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded for history in the gospels and Acts of the New Testament, is more than a folk tale, more than a cover story, more than a poor man’s crutch. This ancient faith is the wellspring for a thirsty generation. Rather than a doorway into narrowness, it is the door to wide open horizons. Many a new Christian starts noticing the colour in the world for the first time.

The Wonder Workshop wants help people to discover this for themselves. We don’t do it by preaching. The WW helps us all to look simply over many of our common life-experiences, and feel the already-present richness of God’s gift and calling upon our lives. Church people need to do it. Non church people need to do it. We will tackle it honestly and with respect. But be warned, if it does its job, Wonder Workshop will leave more questions asked than answered. We are all on a journey.

Expressions of Interest to

When

Where

Website for more info:

Most of MYW is directed towards Christians who seek to increase their capacity and authenticity in faith sharing, called “Makes You Wonder”. However, some combinations of these sessions are so open- ended that they make a good workshop in spiritual exploration with not-yet-Christians, and we call this a “Wonder Workshop”, but you can improve on that title, I am sure. I will return to this specific option below.

Each module of Makes You Wonder has a mixture of exercises, listed under ten topics. Try to use a variety so that participants are stretched to work in multiple ways. Some are short some are long. Some exercises you need to do from beginning to end, some you can cut and paste to your own purposes. You choose. I have some concrete suggestions to make below.

The time available is the biggest limiting factor in most places. If there are more participants, each session takes longer. Maybe you have one hour at the church camp. Maybe you have a sermon on a Sunday morning. Usually, when they trust you, people will give you three sessions in their small group. When you are finished that, you can ask if they would like to schedule more sessions. Don’t forget that each session must include prayer for the people we know who may come to love Jesus.

Here are just some suggestions from recent sessions that I have led. You can vary these as much as you like. I ALWAYS write myself a list, with an estimate of how long each topic will go. It is only respectful to stick to time, and so this habit models the value of respect which is so important in faith-sharing.

SOME PROGRAMME SUGGESTIONS

These are only suggestions. It depends on you and them and how many and how much time. The suggestions below demonstrate variety of approaches. Leaders must become aware of their favourite bias.

ONE HOUR ONLY

· Why are you still a Christian?

· Biblical Evangelism

TWENTY MINUTES ONLY

· Finding Parables

· MMMotivations

· How to Help Someone Decide?

· The Gifts we Give

· The Four Loves

· Standstill

· Smell of God

THREE SESSIONS of 90minutes

  1. My Story – MMMotivations, Why are still a Christian?
  2. Your Story –How to Help Someone Decide? Hearing You.
  3. The Story –What was so special? Biblical Evangelism. Y Question-suffering.

THREE MORE SESSIONS

1. Finding Parables, Imago, Y Question-Hypocrisy,

2. Standstill, Smell of God,Y Question -Evidences

3. Nitpick, Y Question-Sacrifice, Hearing points

1. Hold the workshop in a room that is welcoming, light, airy, with enough space for the size of rhe group including when they are spread a bit into buzz groups. A room which "normally seats forty" (40 square metres) will hold a MYW workshop of twenty.

2. Arrange chairs in a semi circle, or at very least a square if they are benches, and durung the day keep rearranging them as you want, because chairs move to and fro. Give people clear lines of vision to the white baord or screen, past uprights and other equipment.

3. Make sure you have the screen, projector, whiteboard, paper sheets or whatever in sufficient quantity, and large enough to be visible from the back of the group. Be aware thet yellow and orange are hard to read. Use several colours of blue, green, dark red and black. Highlight only with red, for it is hard on the eyes when used a lot. Take some paint-friendly tape or blu-tack if necessary to stick paper sheets up, and work out in advance where and how you will do this ( you may need to get permission for stick-ups). Have all these materials ready for easy use.

4. Bring your MYW Leader’s Notes, your own notes, slides, butchers paper or/and transparencies. Have them set out on a table in sequence and ready for your use. Funny how the obvious things can be forgotten. How do I know?!

5. Write out the agenda with approximate times, and coordinate times with organisers, caterers, and participants. You may feel as the workshop proceeds that you should vary your selected topics, just let the others know.

6. It is more comfortable to move to another room for tea or coffee breaks, if possible, and let your room air.

7. Straighten the chairs and tidy up during breaks, or even better, pre-arrange for your hosts, the local coordinator, to do so. It feels great and participants feel cared for, when they return. It is an act of hospitality and constitutes a way of modelling the MYW values of biblical faith-sharing.