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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Telling Your Story

As we struggle (or don't struggle) with the concept of evangelism, we often stop short out of fear that we won't be able to answer all the questions or don't have sufficient knowledge of theology or the biblical story to "do a good job." One of the really important ways to share Jesus has little to do with professional theological training or public speaking skills. That way is telling your story.

There are three stories that matter when you are talking to another person about Jesus. There is that person's story, your story, and God's story. By "story" I mean life journey, whether broadly or specifically. For example, there was that time I prayed so hard to God for Him to make a young friend of mine better when she was near death. I believe God answered that prayer, though not quite as I imagined He would. That experience of praying and hearing from God is one significant part of MY story. And the way God answered helped me understand more about Him, my story overlaps a little with God's story.

God's story is told in the Bible. It is most important, but one of the really significant ways we can help folks listen to that story is to tell them our story... what God has done that we have seen. Particularly if we are speaking to someone with whom we have a relationship, that personal story serves as an "introduction" to God's story in Christ without having to be preachy.

What if they don't believe me?

Well, then they don't. It is likely they are just not believing God's hand in your life. They can hardly question your life because that's your life! These days, one of the most common universal values (right or wrong) is the right for you to your own experience. While that gives credence to folks who really are off the wall, it at least means that a friend will probably give you attention and respect.

And it may be that something in the story of your life will overlap something in their life - a need, a longing, a situation, a cry for help. And hearing of how God acted with you may well be all the invitation they need to "check God out."

Be sure to ask about their story. It shows respect, and you just might learn something yourself!

While I suppose this could happen in a fly-by evangelism scenario, I really envision it as a process of building relationships and friendships. Sharing your spiritual story is a gift to a friend; be a friend.

How do I initiate this conversation?

Try asking your friend about their story first. =)

What's one of the greatest joys you've ever had? Greatest disappointments?
How was your day/week? I haven't talked to you in a while.
I've been kind of ________ (discouraged, lonely, pick something real) lately...
What do you do when you are ________?
How did you and your husband/wife meet? (that will usually bring on a story!)

At Good Shepherd, on Wednesday nights in January, we'll be considering this topic and "practicing" telling our story to each other. I figure that will at least loosen up the relational joints and help folks remember that we all have a story to tell.

What's yours?

1 comment:

Carol Howard Merritt said...

I really appreciate the advice of asking your friends about their story first. I think one of the reasons why evangelism has so many negative connotations in our culture and even in our churches (!) is that it's seen as a one-sided proclamation, when it should be a relationship.

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