“I don’t believe there are any storytellers.
There are only stories and each one of us gets to carry one of them for awhile.”
In my last sermon during the month of July, Stories That Matter, I shared the above quote from my friend, Thomas Long. They are not his words. He heard them from a participant in a Storytellers Festival. These words ring true for me. As I think back over my life, I remember it in stories. The story of how I met my wife. The story of when my children were born. The story of the various churches I have served. We live our lives in stories, one story strung together with another. This is also how we live our faith, in stories of God’s encounters with us.
This makes me curious why so may of us have difficulty sharing our faith with others. Each of us has unique stories, personal stories. Stories of disappointment and stories of delight shape each one of us, mark each one of us. We are simply a unique anthology of stories. And I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been able to share one or more of their stories.
Perhaps the difficulty with sharing our faith is that we have misunderstood what Christ asks of us. The customary misunderstanding goes something like this: We should teach others the great truths of our faith. We are all storytellers but are not all teachers. For some, the assignment to teach produces a considerable level of inadequacy and anxiety. There is a huge difference between teaching and sharing a personal story. Christ calls each one of us to share our story of faith.
Now it is correct that at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, in Christ’s Great Commission, Jesus mentions that we are to teach. Maybe that is were the confusion and anxiety comes from. Yet, the command to teach is given to the church; it is what followers of Christ are to do corporately. In plain speech, as a local congregation, we are responsible for identifying persons among us with the gift of teaching and then charging them for doing just that, teaching the great truths of the faith. What Christ asks of us individually, and we see this in almost every personal encounter Jesus has, is to simply share a story.
How do we do that? The Bible offers a simple template or formula: Share what your life was like before deciding to follow Jesus, how you made the decision to follow Jesus and how your life is different now. Three stories: life before Jesus, decision to follow Jesus and life after that decision. It seems to me any of us can do that.