Authenticity is the ideological currency of our culture.
Many preachers and evangelists of the 20th and 21st centuries have rightly emphasized absolute truth. Often, as these faith leaders died or were discovered to be hypocrites (for some, in that order), so did confidence in their message. People witnessed leaders who preached something that didn’t actually change or affect their lives, and as we slid closer to postmodernity, Christianity became just another option in a sea of belief systems.
Yet behind the grandiose, post-truth taglines like “I’m living my truth” or “What’s true for you isn’t true for me,” there is a deep longing for truth with a favorable outcome. Truth worth believing in produces positive, long-lasting change.
So as our leaders-at-large dwindle to a handful of still-trusted (or not-yet-distrusted), who is left to tell the truth? To share authentic, deep, abiding faith? We are. And it’s time to start telling our stories.
The power of storytelling
Lee Strobel, prolific author and former skeptic, says it wasn’t just the facts that led him to faith in Jesus, but the stories of those he spoke with and studied. First, the “winsome” changes he saw in his wife intrigued him. He interacted with scholars who shared their own personal faith stories. Even the 12 disciples’ changed lives moved Lee to consider Jesus.
The Bible tells us that our stories, when paired with the gospel of Jesus, have incredibly powerful effects. Revelation 12:11 says the life-changing gospel ultimately defeats Satan: “And [the saints] have conquered [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
Our stories don’t enhance the gospel; it’s the opposite. The gospel infuses our stories with an incredible, true, and certain hope for those that need it most. Our stories hold a power the devil cannot withstand.
God created our brains to process stories differently and more effectively than facts and data. It’s nearly impossible for our brains to ignore a good story. Well-told stories can create a closeness between the storyteller and the listener, making storytelling a natural relationship-building skill.
Your story of how the gospel changes your life can go where a tract, a preacher, or any other kind of evangelism method or tool often cannot. Your story can open doors and pave the way in friendships where the gospel can be explained — and lived out — in personal and authentic ways. And yes, our stories include flaws and our imperfections, but these allow us to share how Jesus loves and heals us deeply and uniquely. Our evangelistic tone shifts from “You need Jesus” to “We need Jesus, and he is bigger than all our sins and mistakes.”
Share your story, share Jesus
Being ready to tell our stories whenever we’re asked (1 Pet. 3:15) means we have to know how the gospel has changed our lives. It also means we have to be willing to listen to others’ stories, and to do so free of criticism so that we can earn the right to be heard.
Storytelling is more than a buzzword or a societal phenomenon; it’s a way we can share how Jesus is real and awesome and trustworthy. Storytelling is a sacred art which helps us engage our culture for the gospel of Jesus, honestly and genuinely. Through the Holy Spirit, may our stories point to the trustworthiness of Jesus rather than a leader’s platform or charisma.
In a world that is increasingly skeptical of leaders and official narratives, our authentic stories may go farther than previous evangelism methods. But our message is the same: Jesus Christ crucified, raised, bringing abundant life, and coming again.