Telling our Story – quickly!

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15 This could stand as the theme verse for the ‘2WordStory’ strategy of the EACH outreach. Through all the prayer and the ‘2WordStory’ signs and gear we hope to create an environment where people will be asking us for ‘the reason for the hope we have’, and we will be prepared to share our story of God’s loving action in our lives – with gentleness and respect. Someone has rightly said that the goal of telling our story isn’t really to get information to folks but to build a bridge so that they might tell us their story. After all, they don’t so much need to know about how God saved us, as about how he wants to come into their life to save.

So, let’s get prepared (or brush up) on how to share our story in a way that just might get us into those sorts of conversations with folks. Many of us have worked on this before, but unless we are regularly using the skill, we are probably a bit rusty.

First, I urge you to develop 3 different versions!

  1. A 30 second version – that is really short! Think of it as a trailer for the movie, just enough to give people the idea and be a teaser for more. You can probably slip this into normal conversion without having to ask whether they want to hear your story first. Useful for brief encounters. Write it out and practice it until it is natural.
  2. 2 to 3 Minute version – this is what you may be used to. You get to put in more information, but still not your whole life story! You will have to work to focus it down to just 3 minutes. Even at this length you should probably expect to ask folks ‘would you like to hear my story’ before you launch into it. It would be good to write out and practice this, too.
  3. 30 minute version – now we are talking about sitting down over lunch or coffee. Obviously this is for the occasion when people really want to hear more. Even in this case it is good to think beforehand about what to include and what to leave for some other time. You don’t want to bury people with information but to tailor your story to highlight what God has done and to address issues and questions they may have.

Secondly what should you include? The basic outline should be: Before, How, After.·

    Before –not all of us have a clear ‘before I gave my life to Christ’ point in our lives. Maybe for you it is ‘before I got serious about following Jesus’ or ‘before I was baptized in the Holy Spirit’ or ‘before my faith was renewed’. Whatever it is for you, think about where you have come from, the issues and problems you faced, where your life was just ‘wrong’. How – how did God break in on your life, draw you to himself in Jesus, fill you with his Spirit, etc.. What means did he use. What were you experiencing. What did you do. What did He do? After – What has changed in your life? How do you experience him in an ongoing way. What have you seen him do. How is your experience of facing problems different than before?

I think that this quote gets at a very important point about where our emphasis should be as we think about dividing time between these three topics.

    After hearing countless people share their faith, I’ve recognized that the typical structure for telling a personal story of salvation is skewed. About 80 percent of the story focuses on the “before” period — what life was like before accepting Christ as Savior. Another 15 percent of the emphasis is given to the process — how the individual came to Christ and the mechanics of asking Christ into your life. That leaves only 5 percent for grace — the transforming power of God in your life since becoming a Christian. This pattern also reflects many of the commonly taught methods of evangelism. What it most painfully ignores is that part of the story that is most appealing to the lost — grace and resulting hope for the future. After all, our call is not to always be prepared to give an answer for the sins of our past, is it?    Michael Simpson, Permission Evangelism

Lastly, some practical pointers. These really apply to most situations where we are speaking with who are not yet Christians.

    Speak in everyday language – When we hang around Christians all the time we develop our own jargon which makes no sense to others and makes what we have to say sound ‘preachy’. No phrases like: ‘He laid a burden on my heart’, ‘I was convicted’, ‘it was edifying’, ‘I was really blessed’, etc.. There are normal language alternatives – let’s use them! Avoid negativity toward people & groups – folks outside Christianity view us as narrow, bigoted, judgmental. May it not be true of us! Time for a heart check. But let’s be careful not to give them ammunition to reinforce a stereotype which might keep them from hearing the story of God’s grace toward us – and toward them. Pray – before, during & after. It is not our job to convince folks or change their hearts. The Father draws people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin and revelation regarding salvation. If we don’t put pressure on ourselves, we probably won’t put pressure on folks we talking with. Let God do any pressurizing that is needed! And if we are praying even while we share, He can guide us what to say.

Start praying and thinking, and maybe even writing, now so that you will be ready for the start of the EACH outreach on Easter, and for the rest of your life as a witness! It really helps to do this with others so take some time in your family or small group to work on telling your story in a compelling way so that you are ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’.

May we be part of Everyone getting a Chance to Hear in SE Michigan!