The first chance group members had to talk to one another was around a question of barriers...what barriers did they experience when they wanted to talk about their faith with other people? In groups of four, they had some animated conversations. But when they came back to the big group to share, I noticed that they seemed to be defining barriers to talking about "faith" as barriers to talking about "church." Their focus on faith was on the institution itself: how do you tell people you attend a church, how do you invite people to attend YOUR church?
It wasn't until the end of the presentation, when they did Cardboard Testimonials, that the group's understanding shifted. The assignment was to think of a time you were up against the wall, in a ditch, drowning in the swamp of life, and really struggling. And then how God brought you out of that. In just a few words, write about that struggle on one side of a sheet of cardboard. On the other side of the cardboard, write a few words about what God has done for you.
Then they shared their Cardboard Testimonial with another person. The energy in the room shifted. They turned to one another. There was less laughing and more listening. Faces softened. Body language relaxed and opened up.
When they returned to the big group and a few people shared the experience, it was clear they were no longer talking about "church." They were putting words to very real, very tender, and life-changing experiences that they had with God.
A dozen of them let me share their Cardboard Testimonials. Card by card, the stories unfolded, stories of grace, redemption, and hope. At the end, all we could say was, "Isn't God good? Isn't God amazing? Haven't we been blessed by God's presence in our lives?"
And that is the beginning of how we learn to speak our faith. To know where God has touched us, and to be able to put just a few words to that experience. And to be grateful for God's abiding presence in our stories.
No more talking about "church." They left the room talking about their faith.
(Here is a video from the Evangelism Matters conference that demonstrates Cardboard Testimonials)