In attempting to build relationships and engage those in the culture around us, it is important to listen to their stories. As I noted in a previous post:
Every person has a story – a unique story of their life history, including their spiritual journey. To understand their journey, you need to know where they have been, where they are and where they are going. By understanding their story, you can be prepared to share your story in a way that they can relate to – and ultimately tell God’s story of grace and forgiveness.In John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany he begins the first chapter with the main character describing his spiritual journey:
I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice--not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany. I make no claims to have a life in Christ, or with Christ--and certainly not for Christ, which I've heard a lot of zealots claim. I'm not very sophisticated in my knowledge of the Old Testament, and I've not read the New Testament since my Sunday school days, except for those passages that I hear read aloud to me when I go to church. I'm somewhat more familiar with the passages from the Bible that appear in the Book of Common Prayer; I read my prayer book often, and my Bible only on holy days--the prayer book is so much more orderly.When I read those opening paragraphs of Irving's book, I was intrigued by this account of the main character's spiritual journey. Certain phrases that he used seemed to indicate that he was a Christian. However, he gave no indication that he had a personal faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross to pay the penalty of his sin. I found myself wanting to ask questions to discover the depth of his faith and why he felt it needed "patching up every weekend."
I've always been a pretty regular churchgoer. I used to be a Congregationalist--I was baptized in the Congregationalist Church, and after some years of fraternity with Episcopalians (i was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, too), I became rather vague in my religion: in my teens I attended a "non-denominational" church. Then I became an Anglican; the Anglican Church of Canada ha been my church--every since I left the United States, about twenty years ago. Being an Anglican is a lot like being an Episcopalian--so much so that being an Anglican occasionally impresses upon me the suspicion that I have simply become an Episcopalian again. Anyway, I left the Congregationalists and the Episcopalians--and my country once and for all.
When I die, I shall attempt to be buried in New Hampshire--alongside my mother--but the Anglican Church will perform the necessary service before my body suffers the indignity of trying to be sneaked through U.S. customs. My selections from the Order for the Burial of the Dead are entirely conventional and can be found, in the order that I shall have them read--not sung--in the Book of Common Prayer. Almost everyone I know will be familiar with the passages from John, beginning with "...whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." And then there's "...in my Father's house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you." And I have always appreciated the frankness expressed in that passage from Timothy, the one that goes "...we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." It will be a by-the-book Anglican service, the kind that would make my former fellow Congregationalists fidget in their pews. I am an Anglican now, and I shall die an Anglican. But I skip a Sunday service now and then; I make no claims to be especially pious; I have a church-rummage faith--the kind that needs patching up every weekend. What faith I have I owe to Owen Meany, a boy I grew up with. It is Own who made me a believer.
Years ago I was taught the importance of sharing my story or my "testimony"--and I've told that story over and over again. I am so grateful for God's grace in my life.
I also learned how to share the Gospel story--that God is a loving God, that man is sinful and separated from God, that God is just and must punish sin, that God solved the dilemma between His love and His justice by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, that Christ rose from the dead conquering the power of sin and death, and that salvation comes to those who place their personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone.
However, I am more convinced than ever that it is important for Christians to listen to the spiritual journeys of those who don't yet know Christ. We need to start spiritual conversations and discover how God has already been working in drawing others to Himself.
After hearing their story we are better able to communicate His story in ways that help them to understand the grace of God.
Share Your Story!
Hear Their Story!
Share His Story!