Stories touch the human heart where mere words cannot reach. This is why stories are popular in every culture from ancient to modern. For thousands of years, humans have used stories to explain their world, express their emotions, and teach lessons.
The Bible is full of stories-historical narratives that emanate the character of God.
Every person has a story. Sharing our own story of how Jesus changes our lives is an effective way to naturally share the gospel with another person. Sharing our story requires connecting our own brokenness to that of the hearer and explaining how Jesus is the answer to that brokenness.
Connect to Brokenness
Brokenness is a hard subject to discuss, but it is necessary. We cannot see our need for a solution until we see there is something broken. We do not know our need if we believe we are doing pretty well. We do not see our desperate need for a Savior until we see the depths of our sin.
In our try-harder, do-better culture, people don’t need all of their sin pointed out to them. They need to see and feel the weight and depth of their brokenness. They need to be brought to the end of themselves and realize that doing better and trying harder is not enough to reach a perfect, holy God. To make them realize this is not our job-it is the work of the Holy Spirit who pierces hearts and enlightens minds with the truth.
What they need from us is to hear how Jesus healed the brokenness in us and how he continues to heal it. They need to hear that we’ve not yet arrived-that we still need Jesus too and that he is totally worth the sacrifice of our idols and ourselves. Yes, heaven is a spectacular gift for life after death, but people need to see how Jesus matters to them NOW-not just in the afterlife. Many college students I talk with don’t want to give up their lives of sin to follow Jesus until they understand how he is the better option for here and now.
Our purpose in sharing our own story is to find their gospel story- to show them how the gospel gives them hope where their idols fail.
Every one of us has a pet idol or two-the god that once owned us. When we come to Christ, those idols die and no longer control us, but they still can wreak havoc on our sinful flesh. We need the hope Jesus offers every day. The key to sharing your story with others is to hone in on one idol that controlled you before you came to Christ (and the one you’re most likely still trusting him to help you fully overcome). Share how this idol controlled your motivations and deepest longings before you knew Christ. Talk about how you surrendered it to Jesus and how he changed you-and how he is still changing you now in regards to that idol. Think of it as the theme for your story.
Photo by Daniel Tajford on Unsplash
Include a Clear Presentation of the Gospel
When we share our stories, we want the hearer to also understand the solution. It’s effective to weave a clear presentation of the gospel into our stories. It doesn’t have to be a long presentation. We just need to hit the major points:
1. God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.
2. We are all sinful and separated from God. Our sin keeps us from being in relationship with a holy God.
3. Jesus is God’s only solution for our sin. He died to take away our sins so that we can be in relationship with God.
4. Each person must individually believe in Jesus and accept him as their savior and Lord, then we can be in relationship with God.
In order to clearly communicate our story, it is good to have a plan or structure. Sometimes doing a before you came to Christ, when you came to Christ, and after you came to Christ structure helps-IF you remember a distinct moment when you put your faith in Christ.
For those of us who grew up in the church or for those whose coming to Christ was more of a journey, this moment may not be as distinct and that is totally OK. I am in this boat. I have no idea exactly when I surrendered my life to Christ, but I know it was sometime during my freshman year of high school. So, I prefer to use this structure:
1. This is my core brokenness and how it looked before I came to Christ.
2. I surrendered my life to Christ when I understood how he was the solution to this core brokenness (share the gospel).
3. How Jesus changes how I live with this core brokenness in my life now.
So, when I share my story, it looks something like this:
From the time I was a young child, I learned that other’s approval made me feel good, worthy, and valued-and that disapproval made me feel bad and unworthy. It became my god and it controlled all of my motivations. It even affected the way I viewed God. I thought that if I was good and moral enough, then God would be pleased with me and let me into Heaven. But, at the same time, I never felt good enough for God. I pictured him as a big, angry dictator in the sky who was ready to zap me anytime I failed. You see, I couldn’t obey God perfectly because my desire to earn others’ approval controlled me. It motivated me to lie-a lot-to cover up my wrong-doings or mistakes. It motivated me to not be myself-to be whoever I was with wanted me to be, so that they would approve of me. It motivated me to create a standard of perfection for myself that I couldn’t possibly attain. Seeking the approval of others left me living a life of stress, fear, and self-hatred and with my picture of angry God, I felt no hope.
When I was around 14 years old, I came to the end of my rope and I was honest with God for the first time in my life. I told him I didn’t know if he was real. I told him I wasn’t sure I believed in him and if he was real, then I was not sure I wanted to follow this angry God I pictured. Through tears, I told him out loud, “If you are real and you are a loving God, then I need you to show yourself to me because I don’t believe anymore.” In his love, God answered me-not right away, but over the course of a year and through other people and reading the Bible, I came to understand that God loved me no matter what I did or failed to do. He was not an angry dictator, but a loving and personal God. I realized no one was good enough-not even me-to earn God’s favor, but because he loves us and wants to be in relationship with us, he sent Jesus to die on the cross to take away all of our brokenness-my desperate desire for others’ approval included. I learned that all I had to do was accept this gift of Jesus by believing in him and trusting him to take away all of my brokenness. Throughout the course of my freshman year of high school, I grew to believe this and trust in Jesus.
I no longer put my hope and worth in what others think of me. Instead, my worth and hope is found in Jesus-who loves and accepts me no matter what I do or fail to do. His love for me will never change based on my behavior. I don’t have to earn God’s approval because he already approves of me through Jesus and his death on the cross. This doesn’t mean I no longer struggle with wanting others Approval-I struggle with it every day. But, because of Jesus’ work in my life, it no longer controls me. When the stress, fear, and self-hatred begin to creep up again and I find myself motivated by the approval of others, Jesus gently reminds me that I am fully known and fully accepted and fully loved by him no matter what I do or fail to do. He reminds me that I am no longer that scared little girl who desperately needs the approval of others. He frees me to turn away from seeking others’ approval and turn to him for acceptance and, therefore, live a life of peace, hope, and freedom.
Remember, our goal is sharing our story is to connect with the hearer’s brokenness so that they may see their own brokenness and need for Jesus. Only God can change their hearts. We are merely the messengers. I pray for you as you take the step of faith to share your story with another person.
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Read the Rest of the Share Jesus Naturally Series:
Pop the Christian Bubble
Walk with Jesus, Pray, and Listen to the Holy Spirit
See People As Humans, Not Projects
Be A Listener, Learner, and Friend
Be An Initiator