(Read “How to Transition into ‘Gospel Conversations’ with Non-Christians” as it builds on this blog. https://lifeword.org/blog/how-to-have-gospel-conversations-with-non-believers/
As you peel back the layers of a gospel conversation, a person’s story will start to peek through the cracks. You’ll catch glimpses, like a light on behind a closet door, of their life experiences with spiritual matters. This is what you’ve been working toward.
This is where you’ve gotta get bold and ask the all-important question: “Hey, I’m hearing bits and pieces of your life’s journey – and it sounds super interesting. Would you mind just telling me your story? I’m interested.”
Nobody turns that down. People love to talk. People love themselves. And, yes, people love to talk about themselves!
Now, as they share their story, you must be a good listener. Keep these things in mind:
Take a mental chill-pill. Don’t be anxious. Don’t feel pressure to have responses. You are simply listening to a grand, old tale. Enjoy it! They are honoring you with their story!
Second, Never Interrupt
Offer them the gift of freedom to wrestle through their own stories. It might take two minutes, or it could take thirty minutes! Either way, this is the most important part of your day, so be patient.
Let them dig into themselves. They’re tilling the “soil”, leafing through their pain, touching the void they know is there and has always been there. In essence, they’re priming the pump for the gospel – which you’ll be sharing soon.
Third, Show Genuine Interest
Don’t be a cardboard box. Ask follow-up questions. Ask clarifying questions. Make simple connections with them.
If you’re not interested in what they say, they won’t be interested in what you’re about to say. But don’t fake it! Care about them enough to actually engage with them in their story.
Fourth, Never, Ever be Judgmental
If they say, “Well, I’m a Buddhist”, you never, ever say, “Oh, gross.” The whole situation just turned to poo-poo. Instead, you say, “Wow, that’s amazing!” Go ahead and practice those three words. Out loud.
Yes, annoy the people around you. Practice, practice, practice those three words, “Wow, that’s amazing!” I emphasize this because they’re gonna probably say some stuff you’re not expecting. And your knee-jerk reaction to it – whether a judgmental sigh or a literal recoil – sets the mood. Either this is a safe place to talk or it’s not. So, when you respond with, “Wow! That’s amazing!” they’re safe.
Then, you ask follow-up questions. “Why are you a Buddhist? How did you become a Buddhist? What are your prayers like? What’s up with the different sects of Buddhism? Did you grow up a Buddhist? What are your dreams for your kids?”
Fifth, Tell Your Story
When they’re all done sharing their story, and you’re all done being the most excellent of listeners, they will (always) ask, “So, what’s your story?” And in that moment you better have something to say!
As we think about the nuts-and-bolts of how to share our faith, it’s paramount we understand our own story, or testimony.
Each of us has a story. And because all of us have been delivered from the dominion of Satan, where we were spiritually dead, to the kingdom of the Son, having been resurrected to life and adopted into God’s home, all of our stories are powerful.
Just because your past doesn’t include selling drugs and killing people doesn’t mean your story isn’t effective. That’s utter nonsense.
Never discount the power of story. Jesus often used stories to penetrate people’s hearts. They are compelling, influential, and you can’t argue against them. Living in a postmodern, post-Christian, western society, our stories and experiences wield more power than ever before.
This is why we must first learn our stories.
Sixth, Know the Components of Your Story Before You Tell it
In thinking about your own story, consider the following. (Write it down if you really want to plant it in your brain.):
- Start by briefly introducing yourself
- Mention a strength of yours, or some defining characteristic of yourself
- Explain how that strength/characteristic can often turn into a weakness in life
- Share how Jesus became that strength for you – which is why you now follow Him
- End with what life is like now that you follow Jesus
Additionally, all throughout your story you’re giving examples from your life. Here’s a personal example to illustrate:
I’ve always been moral. Like, I’ve always been a good kid that follows rules and hated getting in trouble. But I regularly came across as “superior to others”. People called me judgmental. And they were right! When I met Jesus, he humbled me. He made it clear at the cross that I was deeply, deeply sinful, and needed forgiveness just like everyone else. Since knowing Jesus, I still care about doing the right thing. But I’m not as judgmental anymore. I’ve realized that I’m a sinner too!
- I introduce myself (though I would expand this in person).
- I define a characteristic (moral, pastor’s kid and well-liked).
- I name a weakness (judgmental and insecure based on the need to always achieve).
- I make a Jesus connection (I’m sinful, too! Jesus achieved for me).
- I explain my life with Jesus (no longer judgmental, but compassionate).
Now that we’ve got the “bones” let’s add on the “muscles” bit by bit and build your story:
Start by “fleshing out” some of your strengths/defining characteristics. Maybe write them down. Potential examples: athletic, artistic, intelligent, people-pleaser, rebellious, high achiever, lazy, great reader, imaginative, shy, servant-hearted, rule-follower, adopted, angry, moral, etc.
Next, think through how these strengths/characteristics have failed you. It’s been said that, “Every blessing comes with a set of curses” and “Every great strength has a great weakness with it.” What’s the “hard part” of having this strength/characteristic? Use the testimony above for insight.
Then ponder your relationship with Jesus. Think hard. How did you first get to know him? What has Jesus changed in your life? What has he meant to you? Write out the bullet points of your answer . . .
After that, connect the weakness attached to your strength/characteristic with your relationship with Jesus. How specifically did He help you in that weakness? For me, it was by showing me how sinfulI was…as sinful as everyone else!
Last, explain how Jesus has helped you. What is life like for you now? How are things better as related to the first parts of your story?
Once you’re done, boom! You’ve now got the most effective gospel-sharing tool in the world, your story. You can share it in 30 seconds or 30 minutes, depending on the situation.
May Jesus bless others through how Jesus has blessed us!
Copyright © 2020 by Justin Talbert @ https://getgroundedministries.com/2020/03/18/how-to-built-and-share-your-testimony-winsomely/ . Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org.