One of the things I’m working on this year is changing the culture of our church from one that values numbers to one that values stories. Not just any story, mind you, but stories about life transformation. One of my favorite quotes is by G.K. Chesterton, who said, “The only thing that can satisfy the soul is a story and a person…and even then the story must be about a person.” I believe that going forward churches are going to be built one “story” at a time.
Yesterday I taught our congregation how to write their own story using the model presented in Acts 22:1-21 by the Apostle Paul. To set the context, Paul had been brought up on charges and had been given the opportunity to present his own defense. At that point Paul simply shared his own story of life change. I’ve provided the outline to the text so that you can see how it works.
1. My Life Before I Came to Christ (Acts 22:1-5)
“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” When they heard him speaking in their own language,a the silence was even greater. Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the Christians from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.
2. How I Came to Know Christ (Acts 22:6-13)
“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene,b the one you are persecuting.’ 9The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me. “I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ “And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’ “I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions. A man named Ananias lived there. He was a godly man, deeply devoted to the law, and well regarded by all the Jews of Damascus. He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him!
3. My Life Since I Have Come to Christ (Acts 22:14-21)
“Then he told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak. For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’ “After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesusc saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’
“‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’ “But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’”
While your story may have different content than Paul’s, you can still use the same outline to hang your thoughts upon. Your story is valuable to the Kingdom of God! It’s worth sharing, but you can’t share what you haven’t prepared! Tomorrow I’ll post some simple tips on how to write and share your story.