The title may be a bit misleading. You can’t collectively, all-at-once increase the corporate faith of a congregation. So how do you increase the faith of a congregation?
One person at a time. On purpose.
in my last post we covered how we had to change our approach to discipling folks who choose to partner in ministry with Crosspointe.
I won’t rehash the previous post. What I want to touch on is the five things we (and millions of others) have seen that grow a person’s faith. In his book Deep & Wide, Andy Stanley points to these things as essentials. He calls the “5 Faith Catalysts.” So what are they?
These are the ingredients to a recipe that builds a person’s faith. By faith I mean the trust and belief God’s promises and who God is. These five things are shared by every single person who has ever become a Christian. We may not have noticed them, but they’re there!
I’m going to do a post on each of these because they are that important. Each one happens and your faith grows. Take one away, it may shrink.
Catalyst #1: Practical Teaching
When a person talks about their conversion story, almost instantly they bring up the moment they experienced practical Bible teaching. You remember, right? It was that moment that probably wasn’t the first time you’d heard something taught from the Bible. Instead, it was the first time you actually understood what was being taught. More importantly, it was the first time you understood what to do with what was being taught.
The “AHA” moment where it ‘clicked’ and you realized the Bible wasn’t some antiquated book to be analyzed, but was directly applicable to your own life! Most Christians can tell you where they were and who was speaking the first time someone made the Bible come alive for them.
When Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew tells us the crowd’s response:
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matt. 7:28-29)
Here’s a hard truth: All teaching and preaching is NOT the same.
This was a gnarly pill for me to swallow since I teach and preach for a living. Here’s what we see:
The first-century teachers of the law of Moses were teaching the same Scriptures but there was something DIFFERENT in Jesus presentation style. They had the same source material, but arrived at two diverging places. It’s clear Jesus had a passion and style their normal teachers did not.
More specifically, Jesus wasn’t satisfied to simply say what was true. He wanted his audience to ACT on what they heard. Jesus closed the sermon with a specific call to action along with an emotionally charged promise and warning:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. “(Matt. 7:24, 26)
Jesus taught for a response. He taught for life change. He didn’t simply dispense information. We rarely find him rebuking people for their lack of knowledge. It was almost always their lack of faith evidenced by lack of application. He wasn’t after just agreeing with facts and information. Instead He was after active, living, do-the-right-thing-no-matter-what faith.
Remember how fascinating the Bible suddenly was? That moment when you sat on the edge of your seat. The time flew by. You took notes. You underlined entire passages, then highlighted them. You wanted to know what kind of Bible the teacher or preacher was using so you could get one like it. You couldn’t wait to come back for more! Something burst to life inside of you.
Then you did something really radical. You went out and applied some of what you had heard. And God honored your active faith.
Your faith collided with His faithfulness and your trust in God grew a little bit.
Practical teaching that moves people to action is one of the primary things God uses to grow our faith.
Here’s where it changed what we did at Crosspointe.
First, I had to change. It’s not easy to get a preacher to reevaluate what he does and how he does it. We get into a groove and like to stay there. Yet, in that rut, we miss a connection.
Here are a few things we do, most often without even thinking about it:
- we preach and teach in ways and on topics that only interest us.
- We often put way too much information out there at one time. We try to get folks to drink from a fire hydrant.
- After we’ve sufficiently drowned our audience, we walk off stage without putting handles on it so they know what we said, why we said it, and how to put it into practice.
See the missing ingredients?
Practical application and relevant-to-the-listener-not-just-me teaching and preaching, and too much information.
SIDE NOTE: If you’re not a preacher or teacher in a church setting, you’ve got to understand something. Those of us who do it get fired up about it! We love to research, to study, the prayer, and we get truckloads of information that we believe is important to you.
Every little detail is important to us. Why? Because we are God’s mouthpiece for thirty-five minutes a week (+/-) and we’d better get it right! The safest way we know how to do that is to dispense a lot of information onto the audience. I had to come to a point where I realized pride was blocking me from actually doing what I needed to do – teach people how to follow Jesus. So I had to repent and change my methods.
The hard part for me was (and is) developing an editing room where we cut out 90% of the extra information, though it may be important, to hone in on the practicality and application of the text. That. is. hard. to. do. When you spend 20-30 hours a week studying, writing, praying, wrestling through a message or Bible class, it becomes your baby. You don’t want to pair it down. You don’t want to cut things. I get it! But hear me out:
YOU HAVE TO.
I have learned (and am still learning and fail quite often) that all that information is good…but if it doesn’t help me apply the Scriptures to my life…it doesn’t need to be there.
So I changed my preaching format from a who knows how many points a message to ONE POINT. One idea I find in the text…and I craft the message entirely around that one point. I don’t diverge. I don’t get off track. I build everything around that one point of application. I turn that one point into what I call my main point, and repeat that main point many times throughout the sermon with various points of application.
Sometimes I will get to Saturday night and I haven’t got the main point yet…or I’ll have to reverse engineer everything I already prepared to make sure it wraps around and leads to the one point. Why?
Because if I can’t remember the three points I spoke about just a week ago, how can I expect my audience to remember them? I can’t. They won’t. I don’t.
So, practical teaching builds a church’s faith by making God’s word accessible, applicable, and always the standard by which we live.
The same applies to all of our Bible class teachers, our Bible study formats, and even factors into designing and planning the worship service. It all wraps around ONE POINT. A relevant, applicable, practical point.
Implementing this catalyst will exponentially help you and your congregation connect to the Word in deeper ways while growing your trust and confidence (faith) in God! Give it a shot. What have you go to lose?