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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A simple concept that has reshaped how we do evangelism

photo courtesy of www.freefoto.com
WEBA is launching Table Talk: An Evangelistic Experiment in June 2013. Every church is being encouraged to try 'Table Talk' (which you could describe as a pre-Alpha course, but actually works more like a game) somewhere in their community - perhaps a cafe or pub - with friends and neighbours. Each church taking part will receive a free boxed set of Table Talk, normally worth £25. I wanted to hear from someone who'd used the game successfully - and got this story from Ruth Rice, a Baptist Minister on the Fresh Streams Steering Group:

We began running a Table Talk group at a local cafe in the suburb of Nottingham where our church meets. The area is fairly affluent and there is a strong cafe culture. We began as a response to people wanting to ask different questions in a different time scale to the ones offered in other, more structured courses.

We invited a few friends who were interested in discussing big issues of life or who just wanted a drink with friends and to get to know some new people. 

"Our regular atheist would now call himself an agnostic"

Although we advertised with handouts, posters and invites all the folk who came were in relationship with someone who brought them. Marketing is largely, in our experience, unnecessary, relationships are essential.

We book the same table each week and everyone arrives from about 7.30 onwards...... grabbing a drink from the bar and joining in the discussion which anyone can start by picking up a card from the attractively presented Table Talk selection, which we vary each week. It's great and really natural, so unlike other courses that have felt forced and a bit preachy at times. 

With table talk if you don't like a question you move on and if the discussion is going well you stick with one card sometimes.

We have a regular table talk group now on Tuesday nights of between 6 and 12 people , many in the 20s and 30s ...a mixture of atheists, agnostics, Christians, and others on a journey from belonging to believing.

Our regular atheist would now call himself an agnostic, has begun reading his Bible from cover to cover and is writing his own questions. Three people have realised they have changed sides somewhere in the process of discussions, like crossing a mountain border on a long hike yet not being quite sure where the border was. 

For those of us who are christians the questions, some basic like, “what makes an attractive life”, some much more searching like “how do you experience God” are helping us to think and search more deeply for truth and be able to listen as well as talk about what we believe. 

"the cards seem more like a game than a religious activity"

We love table talk as a simple concept...and can see many possibilities for the easy to use, well produced little cards in homes, pubs and youth venues.

We have recently used them as a warm up in our pub church Sundays ..as folk arrive they are on the tables and keep the discussion focussed on the big story. Small groups have used them at meals when they have invited friends and there has been great feedback as the cards seem more like a game than a religious activity and yet they generate better honesty and searching than many a BIble study or evangelistic programme.

Table Talk has reshaped how we do evangelism as a church.

Ruth Rice

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