Life Stories highlight the relevance of the gospel.
But how do you share your story in a relationally appropriate manner?
Gauge Their Interest
After you have explored the journey of another (through listening and question asking), if it often natural to share your story. At times, they will ask to hear yours. But if not, you can ask permission to share some.
“Its really interesting to hear your experience. Could I share a little bit of my story?”
Asking permission is important. It helps protect the relationship and communicates respect to the other person’s interest or openness to talk.
Whet Their Appetite
After having told their own story, most people will be glad to listen to “a little bit” of your story. But notice, it is “a little bit” of your story. Restraint must be shown. In this day and age, most people want the one or two minute “feature” version. It’s often best to share only enough to whet their appetite, stirring their desire to know more.
Consider how powerful a simple statement can be:
Read John 4:28-30, 29-42.
The Samaritan woman shared her story in a sentence and a question. How would you tell your story in a sentence and a question?
The Samaritans came out to meet Jesus because of the woman’s testimony. As you evaluate of your “one sentence life-story”, would anyone want to hear more?
When I encountered Jesus, I was found by the one I was looking for. And the funny thing was, it happened in a bathtub. Can I tell you about it? Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6).
Too often we underestimate the cultural divide between our Christian communities and those on the outside. We have developed a language of our own, one that communicates effectively on the inside but is virtually meaningless to those on the outside. We need the ability of translation, to speak the language of those to whom we communicate.
Read Mark 5:18-20.
The delivered demoniac told his story by sharing “how much Jesus had done for him” (Mark 5:20). Make a list of some of the things Jesus has done for you.
The people of Decapolis were amazed by the story of delivered demoniac (5:20). As you evaluate your list, would others be amazed?
If your list is like most, probably not. Yet God’s work in your life is truly amazing.
Is not amazing to have the guilt of everything you have ever done wrong be forgiven by the very one you offended most? Or to experience a genuine love that has no limits and will never end (Ephesians 3:18,19; Romans 8:38,39).
How could you express your list in a way that sounds more amazing (as it truly is)? How would you say it in a language that outsiders would understand?
Paul encourages us to “let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). That “grace” can be expressed, no doubt, in many forms. But certainly a brief word of life-experience with Christ qualifies.
It’s easy to tell your story if there are no time constraints. The challenge is to communicate it in a concise and engaging manner – in the two or three minutes that most people are willing to give you.
Paul told his experience with Jesus in a story form. It takes about 3 minutes to read aloud. (Compare this to Acts 26:1-23 and you discover he used this format more than once.) Can you tell your story in three minutes? Time yourself and try it.
It’s not as easy as it seems.
Reflect on it
Perhaps the following questions will help you:
Before Receiving Christ
What was my life life? What were my greatest needs, desires or problems?
Around what did my life revolve? From what did I get my security or significance?
How did those areas begin to disappoint me? Why were they not satisfying?
How I Received Christ
When did I first sense the need for God?
When was I first exposed to dynamic Christians? What were my first impressions or thoughts?
When was the first time I heard and understood a clear explanation of the need to have a personal relationship with Christ?
What was my initial reaction? When did my attitude begin to change? Why?
What were the final struggles in my mind before I accepted Christ?
When and why did I make the decision to receive Christ as my Savior and Lord?
If I received Christ at an early age, what was the (or a) major turning point for me later in my Christian life?
What major changes have occurred in my life since?
How has Christ met the needs that I used to meet on my own?
What do I value most about the Lord’s work in my life?
It’s helpful to write your story down, even if it is only a rough draft. Don’t worry if it doesn’t sound perfect the first time. The process of writing forces you to think more clearly. The draft gives you the raw material to shape, work with and refine. It is helpful to think of a specific setting as you write. Imagine you are visiting with a friend, conversationally telling your story. What would you say?
The majority of people today lack the background to make sense of words like salvation, grace and gospel, or phrases like accepted Christ or received Christ.
Now that you have a rough draft, you can refine it. Read back through your story and evaluate how clearly it communicates. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
Remember, it is ultimately the story about your relationship with Jesus. It needs to point more to him than to you.
Be careful to translate Christian terminology into language that is familiar to your audience. Your experience can only make sense if it is communicated with words the other person understands. The majority of people today lack the background to make sense of words like salvation, grace and gospel, or phrases like accepted Christ or received Christ.
Be honest, but careful not to speak judgmentally about specific groups or churches. It is normally best to not mention a particular name or group.
If you received Jesus as a child, nurtured in the faith by a believing family and good church, be glad! You have the story that reflects God’s original plan. It’s a favorite of his! But recognize that most with whom you share it, won’t identify with your background. Rather it is what God is doing in and through your life today that will be most relevant and attractive to them. You can flashback to how your journey began. But the story is more about what Jesus has done in and through your life.
Be real in how you communicate your story, especially about the difference Christ has made in your life. The power of the life story isn’t found in painting an idealistic picture of life with Christ. Its power is found in the interaction between an awe-inspiring God and a very ordinary and often struggling individual.
If you want to write your story for publication (for instance, to place on a web-site or send in an e-mail), contact our friends at www.storyspot.org. Their training in writing redemptive stories is excellent!
Want to hear some stories? Check out these: http://www.everystudent.com/videoroom.asp By the way, did you notice what happened when Paul shared his three-minute story? (Acts 22:22) He started a riot! That may not be the outcome you seek. But it’s still important to share your story with others. God can use it to help others on their journey!