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We Don’t Do God … In Church

This topic keeps coming up lately among friends and colleagues. Why are we unable and unwilling to talk about God and talk to God, even among Christians? What stops us? What disempowers us? What could be stranger than Christians who don’t want to talk about God or with God?

Prayer meetings are dying, but on the other hand in my experience they’ve never been popular and it’s also true that Sunday evening church services are dying. A prayer meeting on a Sunday evening maybe a fatal combination. A crisis will galvanise us together, but regular bread-and-butter corporate prayer isn’t attractive.

Conversations after church – we default to the weather and our aches and pains. We might just talk about whether we liked the hymns. Maybe there will be the odd comment about the sermon, but it won’t dominate the caffeinated discussions.

Small groups tend to be just that – small. Some of that is about personality – some people are comfortable in discussion groups, and some indeed get too comfortable, putting others off with their belligerent expositions. Others feel exposed.

The one person who must talk about God and who must talk to God is, of course, the minister. She is our representative. He can do this for us.

And all of this before we even get to the question of talking about God outside the boundaries of the fellowship.

Some years ago, the Methodist Church recognised this problem. A national survey of church life identified that in our tradition we were strong on social issues but weak on talking about our faith. So it produced some material to help: Time To Talk of God. There was a lesser-known follow-up course on evangelism, Talking of God. But how much has changed?

If I am right that little has changed, why might this be? There could be all sorts of reasons:

* Our fear of others is stronger than our sense of God’s love

* We like to have just enough religion to feel we’re ‘in’, but not so much that we’re regarded as fanatical

* Churches (including leaders) are not offering the best education and training in the faith that we could

* Church leaders actually like hogging the power and influence, and don’t introduce more than they have to that would empower others. It’s nice to be the ‘expert’

These are all just some initial random thoughts about the issue. If I sat down longer, I might put together some eloquent piece about our lack of eloquence. But I’d rather just bash the keyboard and get this out quickly to ask – what do you think?

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About Dave Faulkner

I'm a British Methodist minister, married with two children. I blog from a moderate evangelical-missional-charismatic perspective, with an interest in the 'missional' approach. My interests include Web 2.0, digital photography, contemporary music and watching football (Tottenham Hotspur) and cricket.

Posted on May 18, 2012, in ministry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. OurGodReigns

    Dave,, another thought provoking post. I think you answered the issue yourself at the start of your blog. Christians avoid prayer in public or corporately because they avoid prayer privately. It follows, that Christians who avoid talking to God will avoid talking to others about God. If we can’t talk to God, we can’t talk to man. It’s in the secret place that we receive power. It’s the place of intimacy where we come with our heart exposed to God so God can change our heart. The evasion of God in our conversation just highlights a weak or missing devotional life and the absent devotional life exposes the condition of our hearts.

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  2. Marilyn Scott

    I Agree with the previous comment also People seem too embarrassed or nervous to Pray .You just have to start then after a while it becomes easier.Last Year at New Wine we went out for Prayer.Then someone asked me to Pray for a Lady,I just paused and the words came.Some People don’t have the Holy Spirit in their lives so that makes it harder

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  3. Possibly lay people don’t talk about God in ordinary conversation because ministers don’t, and ministers don’t talk about God in ordinary conversation because they think it will make lay people uncomfortable?

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    • Perhaps we ministers lapse too easily into the ‘How are yoyr aches and pains?’ talk after a service – although admittedly any substantive conversation while we are the professional handshaking machine after the service is difficult. Maybe our pastoral conversations in other xontexts need to be more intentional in this area.

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      • A futther thought: ‘One of the perils of the ministry is that the minister is always considered to be ‘the professional’. Whenever the minister is presrnt, he or she is expected to say grace at a meal, or pray at some other function, as if others suddenly lose their tongues.’ (Derek Tidball, ‘Preacher, Keep Yourself From Idols’, p169f.)

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