Pastor (to people in Church New Member Class): Tell us about your personal faith story.
New Member 1: I was baptized a Methodist, but my family joined the Presbyterian Church when I was six. We went to First Presbyterian Church and then we went to Second Presbyterian Church and now I’m here.
New Member 2: There was a split in the church I grew up in, so my family left. I had friends at the Lutheran Church so I joined their youth group. But I’ve been looking for a church since moving here and I like this church.
New Member 3: I was baptized Catholic but I don’t believe some of their policies anymore. I like what the UCC stands for and this is a good church for my kids.
I don’t know if this is the kind of faith-sharing that happens only in formerly mainline churches or if people consider congregational resume-sharing to be the same as faith sharing or if we just aren’t asking the right questions in new member classes.
The faith-stories I’d like to hear are more about where we’ve seen God working in our lives, moments when God has spoken to us in some way, experiences when we’ve felt especially close to Jesus.
But many of us and the people we serve have no idea how to articulate our spiritual journeys in this way.
Our faith is not about transactional relationships with institutions. Our faith is about our relationship with The Holy. Where is the mystery in our lives? What is God calling us to be and do? How are we using our gifts to make earth as it is in heaven?
When my preaching group met last week, we spent time with friends at the Interfaith Youth Core – a great organization that encourages young adults to be able to articulate their faith in hopes of creating an environment of tolerance and understanding in the world. They regularly participate in speed-faithing – an opportunity to hear a member of their staff share his/her own faith story.
Think about speed dating – hosted events when singles can meet other singles in hopes of possibly getting together later to get to know each other better. Speed faithing is also about knowing each other better. If our congregations are going to be authentic communities of faith, we need to be willing to articulate where we’ve been spiritually and where we are going – not in terms of our church membership history, but in terms of our relationships with God and each other.
One of the reasons our churches have failed is because we have failed to be true communities. I’m not sure some of our churches know how. But we have a great opportunity in the 21st Century Church to change this.