Stories first drew me to Christ. I was a lost young girl who had little exposure to the Bible or church growing up. When I was twelve, I began attending a private school that my parents chose primarily for its strong academic reputation. The school just “happened” to be a Christian school. There I met teachers and students who truly shone like “stars in the sky” (Phil. 2:15, NIV). I was drawn to their light, which I at first did not recognize as the gospel in them. As they shared their stories and their lives with me, I discovered that their faith in Jesus brought them the peace and hope I so desperately craved.
My experience in coming to know Christ taught me what the Bible affirms: God calls his followers to share our stories for the sake of Christ. There are two important reasons we must do so:
1. We are God’s ambassadors, and he is “making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). In a post-Christian world, one of the best ways to share the good news of the gospel is to tell and live our stories authentically, pointing to Christ as the Redeemer and God as the Creator.
We know we are called to go into all the world and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, ESV). In order to make disciples, we must understand how the gospel connects with the world to which we minister. In the 21st century, many people believe that “every story is created equal.” That is, according to the world, we must equally respect a Buddhist’s story, a Hindu’s story, a woman’s story, a homosexual’s story. The good news of this worldview for Christians is that, at least theoretically, people must give a fair hearing to the Christian story, which Christians believe is the metanarrative (the “big” story that explains everything). Sadly, in our world, many people are anti-Christian, and do not always welcome the story we so long to share. So how do we gain an audience for the gospel?
One way we gain an audience is by listening compassionately and non-judgmentally to our friend’s stories. We pay attention to their stories, and we actively listen for the questions people are asking:
- Who am I?
- Where does beauty come from?
- Does my life have meaning?
- Why doesn’t life work?
- Is there more than this?
And then gently, wisely, perhaps over time, perhaps in only one conversation, we offer some of the answers we know from God’s Story, the Bible:
- You are a person of great value because you were created in the image of God (Genesis 1-2).
- God created this beautiful world and called it good.
- You are called to care for the world God made, enjoying God and bringing glory to Him (Genesis 1).
- Life doesn’t work because of sin, which entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We are like them, trying to make life work apart from God (Genesis 3).
- Oh yes, there is so much more – you can be a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- One day, Christ will return and make all things new, and you can join in the worship you were made for (Rev. 21-22).
As you live your story authentically, listen compassionately, and share God’s story graciously, you are building a bridge for sharing the gospel.
2. Sharing our stories in Christian community strengthens our bonds. Both Scripture and our life experience teach us that the body of Christ is too often divided. Christian community divides across many lines: generational, cultural, technological, racial, etc. When we listen to one another’s stories, the Spirit works in us to grow empathy and create connection.
The best way to illustrate this point is with, you guessed it, a story.
Imagine this scenario:
You are gathered at a weekend retreat with six women of diverse backgrounds, age-groups, and life circumstances. Everyone is invited to tell a “school story.” You’re the thirty-year-old mom of two littles, and you’ve always thought that seventy-year-old retired teacher sitting across from you was a little tense and unpleasant. But then she tells a story: some sixty-plus years ago, as an eight-year-old girl, she was mercilessly teased by the other girls in her small school. Suddenly, you realize that you have something in common with her – you too were teased in elementary school. As you hear her story and empathize with the pain she has suffered, your antagonism toward her dissolves; your love for her grows.
This is one of just many examples of how the Holy Spirit works through story-sharing to “build us together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).
One day we will gather with people from every tribe, tongue, nation and people group to tell the story of Christ’s glory over and over. Now is the time to invite others to know and worship Jesus. Now is the time to put aside our differences with fellow believers. Let us all join together today to share our stories for the sake of Christ’s glory.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Turnage is a writer, story coach, and teacher. She founded Living Story to help people learn, live, and love the gospel. The author of the Living Story Bible Study Series (P & R), she is currently writing a devotional for people in health crises. Elizabeth offers gospel-centered resources at her blog, www.elizabethturnage.com.
Elizabeth has been married to orthopedic surgeon Kip Turnage for 36 years. They enjoy spending time with their children, Kirby and Amy Anne Turnage, Jackie and Matt Roelofs, Mary Elizabeth and Caleb Blake, and Robert Turnage. When they are not working or visiting their kids, they enjoy doting on their golden doodle, Rosie, the “best-dog-ever”!