Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Personalize the Gospel





There is no better way to present the gospel, to make it interesting and memorable than to weave your own story into it. How has the gospel changed you? If someone is interested in what a difference Jesus has made in your life, what would you say? Answering those questions can give you a ton of confidence sharing your faith.

A typical pattern for your story is a before and after outline. Begin by answering, "What was life like before Christ?" In other words, "What was going on in my life that made me realize I needed Christ?" or, looking back, "Now that Christ has changed me, what did He change?" If you couldn't put your finger on it then, maybe you can now.

Then, answer the question, "How has Jesus helped me with that problem?" What has He done to make you a different person with regard to the problem you mentioned above?

The before/after pattern is simple and clear. . . and that's important. It will require little more embellishment than, "Once I was insecure, now I have peace," or, "Once I was angry, now I've experienced forgiveness and can forgive much more easily."
Bill Hybles in Just Walk Across The Room suggests working on your story and then trimming it to 100 words. That's right, 100 words or less. He suggests you solve four common problems with as you prepare your personal story of conversion:

  1. Long-Windedness: The 100 word limit will keep both you and the person listening from getting bored. It will also keep you from going into prehistoric detail. "When I was in kindergarten. . . (yawn)."
  2. Fuzziness: Trim out extra details. Is it something someone else can relate to? You don't need to relay every dream, thought, vision, verse, need, crisis, sermon, etc. that was important in your turn to Christ. Draw a straight line from before to after and don't deviate. Everyone who listens to you will thank you!
  3. Religionese: Words like "asking Jesus into my heart," "walking the aisle," "born-again," "personal testimony," and many, many more sound more religious than genuine. Say what you mean and mean what you say in words that every person can understand. If you can explain what you mean (in your 100 words or less), please do. Otherwise, don't talk about it.
  4. Superiority: This can be tricky. Pride, spiritual or otherwise, is deceptive. You can come off as holier-than-thou without really meaning to. You can talk as though you every problem is completely solved and anyone who still has problems is stupid. . . that wouldn't be good. God saves people who humble themselves and trust Christ, stay humble when you talk about it. That's all.
If you'll do a little homework, you can be confident in telling people the difference Jesus makes in your own life. Nothing is more beautiful or interesting to listen to that than. In the comments below is one example of a 100 word testimony. Maybe you can add yours. . .

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