Reports from the Front

On Sunday, we Christians rightly hear what we are to believe and do. We also hear what God did back in Bible times. But how often do we hear what God is doing today in our neighborhoods, workplaces, families, and other arenas of our scattered-church lives?

A few churches regularly include what Alan and Eleanor Kreider call “reports from the front.” That can mean reports from the “front lines” where we live out our daily lives. Or it can also mean reports we hear “from the front” of the meeting room.

Evidence of God at Work

As the Kreiders say in Worship and Mission after Christendom, “If we receive no reports from the front in our congregations, we are in trouble. . . . God seems powerless and inactive. And Christians who do see evidence of the missional activities of God in our time may only whisper about it in the church’s hallways or discuss it during the week in house groups or on the telephone—but not in worship services.”

Such reports were once called “testimonies.” Why have they fallen out of fashion in our church meetings? The Kreiders explain: “Testimony is a term that bores some people and alarms others. It bores people because at times testimonies are oft-repeated stories about long-ago conversion experiences. . . . Testimony in worship alarms people when the stories become embarrassingly personal.”

The faculty member of a seminary told me, “When I have been in a church where there is an ‘open mic’ time, the sharing is seldom about anything except sickness and personal problems.” Sadly, many believers had have suffered through similar experiences.

Pastoral Coaching

But rightly done reports from the front will neither bore nor alarm. In some churches, leaders resist spectatoritis by coaching believers in how to put into words what God is doing in their daily lives. (My book, Curing Sunday Spectatoritis, includes guidelines the pastors in one church use in coaching those who will present reports from the front.) While conversion stories have a place, reports from the front should cover a much wider range. For example:

  • This week I saw God at work in my workplace when he . . .
  • Would you please pray for me about . . .
  • Do you ever struggle with the temptation to . . . ? Let me tell you my story . . .
  • We just saw God open a whole new opportunity in our neighborhood by . . .
  • Here is how God has answered a long-term prayer. . .
  • Yesterday God used [name] to encourage me when she . . .
  • As I was reading [Bible passage], the Holy Spirit moved my heart with . . .

Hebrews 10:24-25 explains the importance of shared church, our gathering with other believers: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Most encouraging and spurring on involves speaking to and hearing each other—the very activities involved in reports from the front. 

People gave reports like this even in the Old Testament. For example, the Psalmist encouraged telling stories of God acting in the workplace: “Let them [merchants God had delivered from perils at sea] exalt him in the assembly of the people” (Ps. 107:32). How much more are such reports possible now that each believer has received the gift of God’s outpoured Spirit!

What do you think? How would giving and hearing reports from the front encourage you in your faith and spur you on to act it out?