We are – by nature – story tellers.
We sit around kitchen tables, coffee shops, and local parks, and we tell stories. We tell stories of our lives, of our children, of our hurts, joys, and losses. We listen to others tell their stories. And each story leads to another. We catch glimpses of one another’s needs, fears, joys, and treasures. We understand one another’s lives and we share our lives with others.
But when we talk about becoming a “Gospel Sharing People” like the early Free Church pioneers, we immediately begin to complicate the sharing of the Good News with programs, or booklets, or videos that can explain it to ‘them’ (to those people who need to hear the Gospel). We develop processes and skills to ‘explain it all’. We stop being ‘storytellers’ and we turn our efforts towards being ‘teachers’.
Most people think about sharing the Gospel as a theological statement. That is true even among those who are adamant that we must first develop relationships. Relationships provide the fertile soil in which truth grows. Once the permission has been granted by virtue of the relationship, the thinking is that the believer can move on to determine how best to provide the ‘theological data dump’ the lost person needs to hear.
I think there is a step missing.
Let me share something I have observed when we talk in our churches about Evangelism and sharing the Gospel. It seems that whenever the conversation turns to sharing the Gospel, one of the first questions someone in the group asks is, “What is the Gospel?” It is a very real question. But, if you take that question out of the academic realm and move it into our churches, it is also the question that stops the whole process of sharing the Gospel in its tracks.
When an average Christian thinks about sharing the ‘theological data’ of the Gospel, they worry about “getting it right.” They are afraid they might miss something or miscommunicate an important truth. They are so afraid of getting it wrong that they are paralyzed from sharing it at all.
That does not mean that we should ever stop teaching the theology of the Gospel. It is important to ‘get it right’. Paul sure thought so. Just read through Galatians again. The other Apostles who wrote letters to the early churches also took great pains to explain the Gospel as clearly as possible. So, I am not advocating that we abandon the study of God’s Word to understand the height and depth and breadth of the Gospel (Eph 3:18-19).
Instead, I have come to see a need for a ‘step’ in between building relationships and sharing the Gospel. This is a step (like building relationships) that ought to come naturally to all of us. We need to get back to being ‘storytellers’. We need to encourage people to tell their story – to ‘Be Witnesses’ of the Good News.
Every day we talk with neighbours, friends, family and co-workers about common, everyday experiences. We talk with concern and compassion. We share common needs and hopes. And we have opportunity in every one of those conversations to share the Good News of Jesus.
- We parent differently because of how we trust Jesus to watch out for our children.
- We face adversity differently because of our faith in an all powerful God who has not lost control.
- We don’t face any of life’s issues on our own.
That’s a truth we have put our trust in – he is with us always (Mat 28:20).
We have a story to tell of God’s Story at work in our lives. We see the joys and treasures of life through a lens of praise and thankfulness. God’s Story of blessing and creative genius. And, we are all story tellers by nature.
I think we need to get back to ‘Being His Witnesses’ (Acts 1:8). That means telling our story of God’s Story. It means being storytellers of what we know and what Jesus is doing in our lives every day – those everyday lives our neighbours and friends live alongside us. We need to stop thinking about how we can share our ‘theology’ and start thinking about how we can share ‘our story’ of all God has done for us.
We need to be ‘witnesses’ before we are ‘teachers’.
As we work on relationships, we’ll have lots of opportunities to share our story of God’s Story. He’s strengthening us, encouraging us, and giving us hope in the things we face every day. Our neighbours and friends need to hear those stories. And when God’s Spirit makes the connection between His Story and their story in your friends mind, they will be ready to hear (and asking to hear) the Good News of Jesus Christ.