Of all things Paul could have shared when he stood before one of the most powerful men in his day, Agrippa, he chose to tell his personal story. As I stood at the very place he stood in the theater of Caesera by the Sea, I was perplexed to realize he didn’t give a theological treatise like the book of Romans or even expound on the glorious joy of being a follower of Christ, like his Epistle of Philippians. Instead he took the opportunity to share what cannot be argued – the account of his own life-change through Jesus Christ.
The message we are sharing today is all about “changed lives.” It is the personal touch that God brings to your life. Thom Rainer’s survey of the formerly unchurched implies that a generation ago evangelism could be successful by propositional truth only (the bear facts). In other words, someone’s personal story was superfluous. But now, the story of the gospel (someone’s own changed life) plays a vital role in evangelism. So instead of beginning with proposition and moving to a story, we must now begin with our story, and then move to a proposition (or at least weave the two fluidly together). Leonard Sweet has said: “The problem is that clarity about God is no longer transmitted to younger (postmodern) generations by impersonal, sequential logic.”
Knowing that our culture today relies less on statements of truth and more on personal experience or feelings is easy as one notices the shift in contemporary television. With the emergence of talk shows, many people are simply just telling their stories or living their stories in Reality TV. We have shifted from shows like Dynasty and Dallas with phony story lines to talk shows with real people. The television industry is no longer creating programs like Bonanza, that followed a single story line for an entire show, but feature shows with multiple subplots that occur simultaneously, stacked with layered storylines.
Rather than being threatened by narratives (after all Scripture has much use of narrative stories), Christians should seize this opportunity to share their own experience of Christ’s transforming power. But the basis of Christianity is a personal relationship, and when the church intentionally offers a transparent, personal, life-changing relationship…the world will take note.
Let’s tell our story with someone today!