Sunday, June 5, 2011

God Space

East Taieri Church recently hosted Doug Pollock on his God Space Tour.  It was a privilege to spend an evening with Doug, who in addition to being a thoroughly nice guy, has one of the soundest, most effective approaches to evangelism in a postmodern context that I know.  You can find out more about Doug at his website

I read Doug's book God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally in a couple of hours.  A must read for every Christian - at least every Christian who wants to get better at having spiritual conversations so others can come to know the Saviour!  This is an easy read in that it is full of wonderful stories, and practical advice.  But it is a hard read in that Doug's style forces you to apply what you read and to look at yourself.

Key insights:
It starts with us.  "If we’re going to create God Space for others, it has to start inside us.  It takes safe people to create safe places.” p.16
He suggests that the reason we so often have spiritual conversations with people on airplanes is because on airplanes our spirituality has no bearing on where we sit.  It forces Christians to have time with people who aren't Christians yet.  We are fellow travellers on common ground, in close proximity, without distractions of cellphones...  The challenge is for us to find ways of creating this kind of God Space in the rest of life.

We need to notice people and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's promptings.  Doug gives us some exercises to help us notice - seeing with Jesus' spectacles.

We need to grow in listening.  There are connections here with the Alpha Course, and with Dallas Willard's wisdom on evangelism.

We need to wonder - asking questions more than preaching at people.

And we need to be able to offer "spiritual appetisers" or bite sized chunks of the gospel peppered with our experience of it.  The challenge here is not to "share our testimony" - one size fits all - but to ask the person if they would like to hear aobut part of our experience that is relevant to the questions they are asking.

What does this mean for ministry at East Taieri?
  1. I will be altering the first part of "Sharpening the Saw" - the training programme we have developed which helps people share their faith with others.  I'll do more on listening and asking appropriate (not pre-packaged) questions.  Interestingly the gospel illustrations we use on Sharpening the Saw, which come from the XEE course correspond well with Doug's idea of "spiritual appetisers", provided we don't force the whole menu on people if they aren't ready.
  2. We need to consider how we are creating "God Space" within our various ministries.  Alpha already does this quite well.  FUEL also creates this over breakfast and during their discussions.  Night Church has been experimenting with this in various ways.  Other services also need to ask this question.  Our community ministries, including things like Mainly Music also need to wrestle with the question of creating room for spiritual conversations.
  3. We need to wrestle with where drinking coffee and eating together fits into our ministry scene.
  4. We also need to consider what physical God space we are offering.  Sometimes this can occur within the church building, but more often it is before and after services, and we could be more intentional about this in our morning services.
  5. It is interesting how directly this connects with the preaching series I have just finished which used a title based on a book by Bill Hybels.  I called the series "The Power of God's Whisper."  It was about us all being sensitive to God prompting us to do or say something, and having the courage to respond.
May we all become more passionate about having spiritual conversations with people who don't yet know Jesus.