How to Tell the Better Story
A few years ago, I found myself leaning on Akon's Lambourghini. It was white, and I believe the interior was a burnt orange. It was awesome, but there was a door ding which for some reason I found funny. Maybe this reaction to a small little ding on an incredibly expensive car was only natural as I was approximately 1,362 miles from my geographic comfort zone.
I was a part of "The 500" which was a group of people sent out to share the gospel with anyone and everyone in various parts of the greater Atlanta area. I had attended a conference and this group dispersed after the last day of teaching. My group was assigned to the downtown area, specifically the Convention Center which was hosting the BET Music Awards that evening. We took the subway downtown, got out, and walked there. Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out and the locals we ran into were helping manifest this feeling. As Ludacris walked by to get on a tour bus with Little Wayne to do whatever, I was not sure if I was to share the gospel, get an autograph, or just get out of the way as the crowd swarmed him.
This is an extreme situation. I probably won't find myself in this circumstance ever again, and you may not either. But what's funny is that the same time and amount of fear may rise up as you put yourself in a position to share the gospel with your family, friends, coworkers, or whomever.
"What do I say? What will they think of me? What if I screw this up?"
The truth is, when you're seeking to share the Truth with those you know well, there's more on the line. If I grabbed Ludacris by his expensive necklace, yelled, "Repent and believe!", and he went on to tell me whether or not he appreciated my exhortation, there's not much to lose. I was never going to see him again. However, with those I'm in a relationship with, with those whom I love deeply and genuinely, there's more to lose. Call it fear of man, but it's true. Genuine love for my neighbor will include sharing the Truth even if it puts the friendship at risk. Even if they don't put their faith in Christ, the friendship doesn't end and your love for them remains. Your side of the equation doesn't change, but theirs may.
All this is to say, how do we share the Truth in a way that makes sense and is carries weight? Knowing that people are worshipers by nature, but the object of their worship varies, gives us an insight. Romans 1 tells us that we're good at worshiping God's creation rather than the Creator himself. Knowing this, we can share the gospel in a way that offers something better.
Logan Gentry shares how we can do this as part of a community, when the story we've been wrapped up into through union with Christ is the joy of our hearts. As we are transformed from one degree of glory to another by the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18), we will see others transformed as they're offered something better than broken cisterns that can't hold any water (Jer. 2:13). Check out Logan's article, which does give some examples but at the very least gives some framework for how we interact with others.
We offer a better identifier, a better definition for people's lives. Given the opportunity, I could have offered Ludacris a better identity, a better story in which to partake. I could have offered contentment as opposed to the fleeting comfort of more Lamborghini's, more expensive necklaces or chains, more whatever. But I freaked out. And I've freaked out when I was alone with my sister and nervously shared the gospel. I didn't know what to say when a coworker came up and asked if I could pray for her mom. Same level of intensity, totally different situations, but the same need for a better narrative of graceful/merciful/loving redemption and restoration.
As we do this in community, our love for one another verifies the story we tell, offering people a better way and a better story. That includes getting to know people's stories, which is an awesome way to learn how they identify themselves. Oftentimes people can't wait to tell you their story, and even in the questions they ask you, it's clearly evident where they derive their value and worth.
"So, what do you do for a living? Do you have any kids? How old are they? How do you think the Bison will do this year?"
The point is this: we can offer people something better. Through getting to know their stories, finding out how they identify themselves, seeing how the Good News offers them something better, and then humbly/prayerfully/dependently telling them about it, we'll see transformation.
If you'd like a firehose of storytelling training in the context of community mission, check out these videos from Caesar Kalinowski at the GCM Collective.