By Chuck Lawless
What’s your story?
I was not raised in a Christian home. I grew up in the Midwest, but I never owned a Bible until I was thirteen years old. I first heard about Christ when God planted in my seventh-grade classroom what I call “a crazy, fanatical twelve-year-old Pentecostal preacher” who made it his goal to win me to the Lord. His approach was simple: he met me at the classroom door each morning and told me, “Chuck, it’s a good thing you lived through the night….” He would then continue, “if you hadn’t, you’d be in hell right now. But . . . you can receive Jesus into your heart right now.” His technique was not the best, but somewhere in the midst of that message God drove truth into my heart—and several months later I trusted Christ and turned from my sin. Now almost forty years later, my life has never been the same. I’m learning daily that grace really is amazing.
I ask you again, “What’s your story?”
See, that question is not an insignificant one. The Bible is filled with people who reached out to others simply by telling their story. Andrew told Peter he had met the Messiah (John 1:40-42), and Philip echoed a similar story to Nathaniel (John 1:43-45). The man born blind told all he could tell after meeting Jesus: “Once I was blind, but now I see” (John 9:24-25). The apostle Paul told his story more than once (Acts 22:1-21, 26:1-23).
Why It’s Important
Why is our story so important? First, everybody has one. Every follower of Christ has a story to tell that includes sinfulness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Second, nobody needs special training to tell his or her story. Training can be helpful—for example, we can learn how to tell our story clearly and concisely in different circumstances – but we can tell our stories simply because they are ours. Third, our stories are evidences of grace. Some may seem more dramatic, but all are stories of grace-saturated life transformation.
Even the very ordinances Christ gave the church are designed to tell the story. Through believer’s baptism, we illustrate our trust in Christ’s death, our personal death to self, and our belief in resurrection and eternal life. When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we remember what Christ did for us, reflect on and renew our commitment to Him, and look forward to the day when He will come again. Our sharing in these events shows that the story has now become our story; the gospel has become intensely personal and real.
Why We Don’t Share Our Stories
Yet, most of us don’t tell our story much, even to other believers. My evidence is purely anecdotal, but here’s my experience from studying hundreds of churches over the last fifteen years:
- Pastors tell their story in the call/hiring process, but many newer members have never heard that story. The longer a pastor leads the church, the more likely it is some of his flock won’t know his story.
- Some unbelieving spouses have never heard their own spouse’s conversion story.
- Children and teens often know nothing of the events surrounding their parents’ or grandparents’ turning to Christ.
- Some adult children don’t learn the details of their elderly parents’ conversion until late in life – sometimes not until making funeral preparations.
- Small group members have sometimes never heard the story of the leader who facilitates their group each week.
- Church-going couples sometimes get engaged without knowing each other’s conversion story.
- Many faithful church members have never been privileged to learn God’s grace story in the lives of their congregation’s staff, elders, and deacons.
- Most church members know the stories of only a few—if any—other members.
Here’s my question: if we take seriously the Great Commission to reach our neighbors and the nations (Matt. 28:18-20), how will we tell non-believers our story if we don’t even tell it to brothers and sisters in Christ?
In fact, this issue is not an either/or issue. By telling our stories within the Body, we glorify God and encourage others. We also learn to tell our story in a “safe” place. By telling our story to a lost world, non-believers come to know the Redeemer. It’s really that simple.
So, what’s your story? Take a few minutes here to tell us your story. Find a way to tell it to other believers. Church leaders, plan times for members to tell their stories. Teach them to tell them often – to believers and non-believers alike.