When I pick up my kids from school, I love to ask them about their day. What did you do? Who did you hang out with? What was the best part of your day? The worst part?
If I’m honest though, there are times when the answer to a simple question goes down a never-ending trail of information that is so trivial and ultimately ends up with me being confused, disinterested or having to ask a lot more questions.
In fact, all of us know someone who starts talking and can’t seem to stop. After a few interactions, you stop asking questions, then you stop talking to them, and may even turn the other way when you see them.
No one likes to hang around a bad story-teller – someone who is constantly talking but doesn’t seem to be able to get to the point.
As followers of Jesus, we have the greatest stories to tell. Stories of how God transformed our broken, sinful lives. Stories of hope. Stories of healing. Stories that connect. The Bible calls this a testimony.
Jesus was a master storyteller. In fact, he used parables in the Bible to connect with his audience. These stories were not only meant to capture interest, but to drive home a point. He used common language to connect.
When it comes to the story of how Jesus changed your life, there are some ways to share your story so that it resonates with those who are listening.
SHARING A STORY THAT CONNECTS
1. MAKE IT RELATABLE
Let me ask how you give directions. Do you say things like “on the southwest corner” or “east of the highway”? Or are you more likely to say, three blocks past the Denny’s right next to this fun little Mexican restaurant?
The truth is, both methods can get you somewhere, but they are two different languages. Knowing the language of the person you are speaking to helps make sure they understand and feel connected to the story.
For example, if you start talking about being washed in the blood to someone who’s not from church, they might think you’re in a cult. If you simply change the language to say that God has forgiven you, you can still convey a similar message and then go from there.
I speak differently to people who have a church background or Biblical understanding than I would to those who have little to no context of church. I may be saying the exact same thing, but my delivery changes.
People are desperate for relationship in our culture, so be relatable.
2. MAKE IT SIMPLE
Experts tend to gravitate toward complexity. The longer you’ve done something, the harder it is to remember what it was like when you were an outsider.
Steve Jobs understood this principal during the unveiling of the iPod in 2001. The inner workings of the iPod were no doubt complex, but Jobs spoke very little of it. Most people would have been yawning if he’d started talking about the Wolfson Microelectronics WM8758 codec audio chip. What people really cared about at first was that it was small, held a bunch of songs and was easy to use.
What we must understand is that, while we have to make it simple to build a connection, it does not stay at this level forever. Depth develops over time. Be patient. You’re in a marathon, not a sprint. Let God begin the work in them and be faithful to do your part.
You don’t need to cram every detail of your life into your story. We must ruthlessly eliminate the unnecessary portions. We do this through evaluation and repetition.
When I prepare a message on Sunday, I always have far more content than I need. At this point, I begin the pruning process, systematically cutting away the parts that might have value, but aren’t essential to the main point. When we have three main points, we need to be reminded of the definition of the word “main”.
Next, practice going through it. Have a 30-second version, a 3-minute elevator pitch, and a longer, more detailed version for those times when someone sits down and says, “I’ve heard some of your story, but there’s got to be more.” If you give the 30-minute version when someone needs the 30-second version, you may have said everything you wanted, but they likely didn’t hear what they needed. Begin by writing it down, then, as silly as it may sound, practice saying it out loud. Share it with someone you know and ask for honest feedback. While it’s not about perfection, it is important to be prepared.
Keep it simple and on point. Fight for clarity. When you begin sharing too much, people begin to tune out. Simplicity is key to sharing a story that sticks.
Our stories may be complex, but the main thrust is always that we were dead, but Jesus came to give us life. There is power in that message, so stick to it.
3. DON’T BURY THE LEAD
Keeping your story simple will help with this point, but it is still possible to talk so much about the hurt or pain of your life that you take too long to get to the hope and healing that Jesus has brought.
When Jesus rose from the dead and Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb, they ran to the disciples saying, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (John 20:2). She didn’t run to them and say, “We were out walking… then we noticed the stone was moved… so we peaked in and when we didn’t see Jesus’ body, we started looking around… then we ran here…” Nope! She got to the point. Jesus is gone!
The emphasis of our story is Jesus, not us. Remember that. Of course, you are an important player in the narrative, but your goal is to build a relationship that bridges the person to Jesus. Otherwise, we risk building co-dependent relationships instead of a Jesus-centered relationship.
If someone seems eager to hear more about Jesus, don’t spend the entire conversation on yourself and all of your struggles. Take them to the place of transformation and fill in the gaps around it. When we make it about Jesus, we invite the power of the Holy Spirit into our lives and God begins to do what only He can do, changing the hearts of people.
4. TELL YOUR FACE
I throw this last point in because story-telling is not simply about the words you use, but also about your posture and tone.
They say that 55% of communication is body language and 38% is tone, leaving only 7% for the actual words. Words matter, a lot, but they are given power and authenticity through your body language and tone of voice.
When someone joins our worship team and seems reluctant to move around on the platform because that’s outside their comfort zone, I explain that it’s not solely about them. They are conveying a message with their body language, whether they want to or not. We never want to say, “Jesus is alive!”, yet look like Jesus is still in the tomb.
You don’t have to be loud or brash to convey the hope of Jesus, but you do have to open up, which may be scary for some. What we’re really talking about is vulnerability. An openness that builds a bond, allowing you the privilege to share your story.
If God has filled you with joy, smile. If He has given you peace, put away the anxious habits and talk. If Jesus loves you, live with that confidence. If God is for you, step out of the shadow of fear. Tell your story and tell it boldly.
When Jesus healed a blind man in John 9, the so-called religious people of the time, the Pharisees, began to grill this man. They made accusations against Jesus, saying He was a sinner, and they continued to badger the man, demanding an answer. This was his response, “Whether He is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see!”
This is our story. Now, go and share it!