Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The power of telling your stories
A few well-crafted and brief stories about your faith journey are a powerful resource. The 100-word one-minute story is worth crafting and having ready
Jesus responded by telling still more stories.
JESUS was a storyteller – the undisputed master of boiling down profound wisdom lessons and weighty theological teaching into a captivating story. His stories take us to great banquets, to mustard seeds and trees that bore good fruit, missing sheep, rich rulers and caring shepherds, a shrewd manager and a feisty widow.
His stories were not just great stories – they all pointed to one thing: God’s grander story.
We all have stories, too – but we might need a bit of coaching in how we tell them.
Some stories are not the best to be shared, especially if they point more to how spiritual we think we are, rather than the goodness and greatness of God. The example I like best is Bill Hybels’ airport story. “I was in a gate area waiting for a flight to be called when I was approached by someone who obviously wanted to save my soul. He began to talk about his intimate relationship with God in the way of one settling into his stride for a long-distance run.
“You are never going to believe this! One night, God woke me up. I looked at the alarm clock, and it said 2:22.”
“And then the next night – God woke me up in the middle of the night, and it was 3:33.” He was set to carry on, whether I was with him or not. “Then the next night…” he said, his excitement still rising. I interrupted him: “Let me guess – it was 4:44?”
“How did you know?! he shouted.
We all have stories about things which are not really coincidental. And they may point to God’s intervention. The point is, this is not the first card to lay down when someone is expressing interest in knowing why you are a Christian. They probably already have a feeling that Christians can be a bit weird.
Bill says that the majority of faith stories he hears lose focus through being too long. He says, keep them really short, watch the body language of the hearer and don’t exceed what they are expecting – and give them plenty of space to ask follow up questions. His idea of working on a one-minute, 100-word single plotline story to have ready is a good one.
Then there’s the problem of fuzziness in a story about how someone came to faith. As the saying goes, the devil is in the detail, because it’s in the detail that the actual story can get lost. Tales from conferences from years ago, with examples out of books you’ve read and some possibly supernatural situations, mashed together with multiple story lines, are not going to be sharp. Less is more – keep it simple, says Bill, with a single plot line that carries the heartbeat of your faith journey.
Religionese is another killer. Words like “salvation”, “born again” and “personal Lord and Saviour” mean very little to people who are not Christians. Our story should not be told in code. It is hard work to eradicate the jargon, but it is worth it to hear from someone: “I understood every word you said.”
Last up is the trap of superiority. Non-Christians are super-sensitive about Christians appearing pious and “holier than thou”. The problem is that we often do. Our story must not convey even the slightest sense of us having our act together, while addressing a pitiable lost person. That, Bill says, is a quick way to send a not-yet-Christian to the hills.
We’ve all blown it on most of these – or by trying to take someone across the faith line when God only wanted to take them forward the next step. But there’s a way to make amends. Bill says, “My answer is always the same. How about apologising to them? My non-Christian friends absolutely love it when they hear me apologise for some less-than-great communication I have made!”