FromGary Rohrmayer @http://garyrohrmayer.typepad.com
Equipping people to tell their faith stories well, is one of the best investments you can make in training your people evangelistically. In his book, Evangelism Out of the Box, Rich Richardson emphasizes the importance of storytelling in our postmodern era. “Storytelling helps follow the rules of experiential truth.” In other words, telling stories makes sense both emotionally and experientially to our audience. He continues, “If something rings true for us experientially and we can be authentic and non-manipulative in the way we tell the story, people will respond.” (pg 93) There is nothing more powerful than the fresh story of a new convert. This is the first story your people should learn to share—and they should learn to share it well. And don’t make the mistake of waiting too long before teaching your converts to tell their story. Some sort of evangelism training should be offered on a routine basis (perhaps monthly), so that every believer learns the basics of sharing their story…and sharing THE story.
Evangelism training should include teaching believers how to tell their faith story. Traditionally I have used a simple three-part guideline that can serve as a template to write their testimony:
- Before I made a faith commitment to Jesus I experienced…
- I realized I needed to trust and follow Jesus when...
- After entrusting my life to Christ, I have experienced…
But recently I came across the before-and-after pattern Bill Hybels writes about in his book, Just Walk Across The Room. He writes, "The promise of the gospel's transforming power is when you come to Christ, your old self is evicted and a new self arrives. When you tell your story, the critical contrast to draw for someone is this: What difference has Christ really made in your life? In other words, what were you like before Christ, and now what are you like after you've asked Christ to intervene?" (pg 122) He continues, "It's as simple as this friends. Who were you before, and who are you now, as a result of Christ's passionate intervention in your journey?"
- I was striving...but now I'm grateful
- I was self-destructive...but know I'm healthy
- Guilty...but now liberated
- Fear-stricken...but now confident
- Despairing...but now hopeful
It's worth searching your heart and soul to firm up the three-pronged foundation of your story: the key word or concept that describes who you were before you met Christ; that fact that you then came into a relationship with Christ; and the key word or concept that describes who you are after walking with Christ for a time. (pg 126-7)
What would happen if every member, every ministry leader, and every staff person was equipped to share their before and after story in a compelling manner through the power of the Holy Spirit? We encourage pastors and church planters to require a written before-and-after story for church membership, for baptism candidates, and for all those desiring to participate in a child dedication ceremony. In the spiritual formation materials that I have developed, new Christians will have written their story at least three times by the time they finish their first ten lessons. Don’t ignore the power of a well-told faith story!
The Apostle Paul wrote to his friend Philemon, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." (Philemon 1:6)