Biblical Stories

Ready to Engage

Photo by–Jordan McQueen_Unsplash
Photo by–Jordan McQueen_Unsplash

Faithfulness is a virtue. That's what I was taught when I was young. But as I grew older, I wondered why I didn't see much of it. Now I wonder if it's considered a virtue worth valuing.

Faithfulness is valuable, more than ever. Its value is seen in two important ways—our character and in relationships. In a world where we may wonder if integrity counts for anything, those who are faithful, those who can be counted on, are especially valuable.

And then there are relationships. Faithfulness in relationships may seem naive, but oh how valuable it is. Anyone who has been wounded by unfaithfulness or violated trust knows this.

The world is looking for people who are faithful in life and relationships. This should be commonplace for people of the Christian faith—for God is always faithful.

Keep alert for opportunities

Last week, we looked at the value of getting personal and connecting with people and their life stories. I've posted about this before, but it bears repeating. It's easy to discount the value of our life story, but over the years I've been enriched hearing the stories of other people.

There's always more to people than first impressions and appearances. When we're able to connect our own life story and that of others to God's story of redemption, a wonderful depth and dimension is added.

This week, I want to wrap this series up by looking at how to be alert for opportunities to engage people, and be ready to share your faith.

Look for opportunities in everyday life

The routine of every day life can lull us into a dull stupor, if we're not careful. If you find yourself sleep-walking through life, it's time to stop and look around at life passing you by. When you do, you'll start seeing the people you cross paths with in a different light. But this requires an additional step.

This additional step needs to be intentional. It's a step requiring us to look beyond ourself. There's a place for introspection, a small place in life. When we look inside for too long, we lose perspective and all we begin to see is our self. Jesus calls us to deny our self (Luke (9:23), not study our self. Once we get our eyes off our self, we'll be able to see people in our life.

As mentioned last week, we need to be open to getting personal with people. Not nosy and getting in their business, but interested in them. This means asking questions about them and showing genuine interest in them and their life story. This usually opens up opportunities to share our own life story, or better, God's story.

Get more familiar with various stories in the Bible

Bible stories aren't just for children in Sunday School. When I tell people about biblical storying, the first reaction is often dismissing it as too simple and childlike. Funny, I remember Jesus saying we need to become like children to be included in God's kingdom (Matt 18:1-5).

But stories are loved by everyone—everyone. I shared last week about my experience overseas and in a village church in Ethiopia. My first awareness of the power of telling stories came while teaching children, and especially overseas. And then there's Jesus who often taught with stories called parables to convey the truth of God's kingdom.

How do you become more familiar with the stories of the Bible? Again, we need to be intentional. You can start by reading and listening through the Bible. I recommend using various Bible versions so you can hear it in other words than whatever version you normally use.

There are several resources for learning stories in the Bible, and for learning how to tell biblical stories well. Here's one online site where you will find several resources—International Orality Network (ION)

Photo by– Nicolai Bernsten_Unsplash
Photo by– Nicolai Bernsten_Unsplash

Pray and trust God for opportunities

One simple way to be alert for opportunities to engage people with stories is to pray. It's amazing how simplistic this may sound, and yet how effective it is. In our DIY era, we sometimes overlook the simplest, most essential things. Prayer is one of those simple essentials in the kingdom of God.

Start each day with a simple prayer for God to open doors with people. Once you pray, trust God to do so. Then be alert to the people He puts in your path. They may not be the people you expect. When you're aware of the people in your day's path, look for opportunities to engage them in conversation.

If you're not sure about this, refer back to last week's post—Getting Personal. Once you engage people in conversation, silently pray for God's guidance when He opens the door for you to share your life story of faith and God's story.

Follow up with people

You need to follow-up with the people with whom you share your faith. This should be obvious, but just in case it's not, it is important. This is not a one-and-done effort, we need to see it through beyond casual encounters. People talk about wanting genuine community today. Community requires long-term commitment. There are no short cuts.

The kingdom of God on earth is seen in the early church (Acts 2:42-47) as they learned how to live out their new life as believers. Sharing about their faith was natural for them. When my wife and I were new believers, no one needed to prompt us to share our faith with others. It came out of us naturally. Our life changed and we told others about it.

Not everyone we engage in conversation is ready to hear our story or God's story of redemption. It may require us to continue talking with them on various occasions, to build relationship and trust with them. Your genuine interest in people will do more to open doors than clever things to say.

So, pray, trust God, step out and engage people and build relationship with them. When opportunities come up, step through the open door. Be a good friend. And be a faithful friend, first to Jesus, then to others.

Give it a try. Even when things don't go as you want or expect, remember—the example of your life speaks loudest of all.

This is the final (for now) post on how to be an evangelist without really trying. I may do a follow-up post on how to learn and tell a biblical story to fit with your own life story or the life story of others.

If you'd like to know more about learning and telling biblical stories, let me know by sending me an email through my contact page.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post with others!

What's Your Story Morning Glory?

Photo credit: www.sunset.com
Photo credit: www.sunset.com

I remember this phrase when I was young. It's a variation of asking the simple question, "What's up?" or "What's going on?" I know there are at least two songs with this as a title, but I'm not referring to them.

The morning glory is a climbing vine with beautiful, white, blue, pink, and deep purple blossoms. The blossoms open in the early morning and close as the day moves to evening. I remember my first encounter with their beauty as a young boy at a daycare center.

I still admire their simple beauty and prolific trumpet-like blooms. My favorite is the deep bluish-purple, but they're all beautiful. Just as their trumpet shape suggests, they shout out beauty in the morning.

Each of us has a story, a life story. In Christian circles, we refer to them as testimonies. This comes from the idea of a witness who testifies what they've seen, or their version of an event. Hence, when someone tells the gospel story, it's often referred to as witnessing.

But as mentioned last week, witnessing or personal evangelism doesn't come easy to many of us. So, I introduced a basic outline for becoming an evangelist without really trying. There are three general points in this outline—keep it simple, keep it personal, and keep alert for opportunities. Today I want to explore the first point—keep it simple.

Start with what you know—your own life story

All of us have a life story

As a young believer, I remember hearing other people share their testimony at church. Some of these testimonies were so vivid and amazing, it may be feel like I didn't have much of a testimony. My life and conversion seemed boring compared to some of the stories I'd hear.

You don't need to compare or compete with others

This is the first thing we need to get squared away—we all have a valuable story to tell. It doesn't need to compare to sensational ones we might hear, it just needs to be genuine. Isn't that the catch-phrase nowadays, to be genuine and real? Who knows your life story better than you?

Your life story is genuine

Your life story is real. You don't need to embellish it to make it worth hearing, but you do need to be able to share it in a brief, clear way. Here's a basic guide if you're not sure how to do this— Guidelines_life-story

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

Most people worry about how to handle questions or challenges when sharing their faith. Don't worry about what you don't know! Focus on what you do know. The point is not to argue theology or get into debates with people. The point is to share your life story with them.

You don't need to have all the answers. You already know the answer. The answer isn't a doctrine or theological point, but a personal encounter with Jesus. So, just share your own encounter with Jesus. It's unique to you, even if it isn't sensational.

Take a cue from Jesus. When challenged by the Jewish leaders, who tried to find fault with Jesus, He side-stepped their challenge with the truth, or put it back to them with a question of His own (Matthew 21:23-27).

If you want to become more knowledgable in how to answer others, here's a resource you can get— Stand to Reason-Tactics

Engage people

When you gain some confidence to share your faith with others, the next thing to do is engage people in conversation. How? It's really not that hard. Think about the conversations you have throughout a day—at work, at a store, in a restaurant, with a neighbor, and others.

Most of the time you can start a conversation with a few simple questions. How's your day going? Do you have family in this area? Do you like your work? You get the idea. Much of the time you will find people willing to talk and open to sharing something about their own life story.

You can also speak something encouraging to a person. I'm pretty sure there's not excessive encouragement thrown around these days. If anything, there's a lot of cynicism, criticism, and complaining. Encouragement is a welcome break from all of that. It may be a start to a conversation, or starting point to develop a relationship with someone.

Once you engage people in conversation, whether for the first time or as a follow-up to previous conversations, you can look for an open door to share your faith. I'll talk more about that in a later post. But a book that expresses this well is, Just Walk Across the Room, by Bill Hybels.

Find a Bible story that matches

This is something that may take some time to develop, but it's a great way to tie your life to a story in the Bible. The great thing about the Bible is that it is honest. It's not a string of fairly tales, but of real life stories.

Many stories reveal the not-so-pleasant side of people. Other stories show great transformations (as in the Gospels or in Acts). The point is to link a story in the Bible to some part of your own life story. I'll also share more about that in a later post.

Just get started!

The first thing to do is get familiar with your own story. Work on getting it clear in your own heart and mind first. Then, try sharing it with others. You can start with people you know first—like a friend, a spouse, or a co-worker.

Then look for opportunities to engage people in conversation. You don't need to be clever, but you do need to be genuine in your interest in them. People can tell when you're just asking to set up what you want to talk about. So, get others talking about their life, the opportunity will come to share your life story after a while.

We'll look at all this more next week. Until then— What's your story morning glory?