by Bill Effler
I will not ever forget the man. He quietly sat in the back of the class. After class he came forward and said, "Evangelism is just like tithing. Everyone knows they should be doing it. Nobody is. And we all feel guilty when it is brought up one time a year by the preacher."
"Why don't you share your story with someone close to you?" I asked him.
"My story? I don't have anything that would be of interest to anyone." How wrong this man's self-assessment of himself was. And, how wrong his assessment of what God had done in his life. People can feel they do not have a story to tell because of unfinished business in their past-walled in by painful memories; or they may be so consumed with what may or may not happen tomorrow that they are blind to see the ministry need that is standing right in front of them; or they may not be able to take time to tell their stories.
In a counseling center where I worked we had a phrase, "slow to succeed, hurry up to fail." These words have tremendous application to the work of evangelism. The ministry of evangelism, perhaps more than any other ministry takes time-and it has got to be God's time. We must be operating at God's pace to see and share meaningful stories of the Kingdom.
Let's look now at people in Scripture who thought that they did not have a story worth telling: Peter had a chance to tell about his relationship with Jesus. After Jesus' arrest and crucifixion Peter lied, choosing to deny he ever knew Jesus. Because of his cover-up lie, "I never knew him," Peter thought he no longer had a story. Wrong, according to Jesus (see John 21).
Thomas, whose name means "twin," had a tendency to doubt. Because of doubts, Thomas must have thought, "How is doubt a subject to share with a person who also doubts? Doubting is not something to be proud of." Doubt can be something to be proud of, once God has brought victory over doubt to you!
The woman at the well (John 4) knew her story, her lifestyle, was well known. Upon meeting Jesus, and having her life transformed, she must have thought, "Who will ever believe me? Would this rabbi ever need my help for anything?" John tells us the woman's former story would not be long remembered, but her new story would never be forgotten (4:30).
Moses thought he did not have a story worth telling after murdering an Egyptian. The next forty years wandering the desert seemed to support this false belief. But God said, "I have seen the misery of my people and have heard their cries and have come down to rescue them..." (Ex. 3:7,8). What Moses did not understand was that God was saying, "I have come down to rescue them, through you, Moses."
There are other examples in Scripture of people with challenging life circumstances who would become servants of God, people who also thought that they did not have a story worth telling. Consider Rahab the harlot, the bride in the Song of Solomon, and of course, Saul.
While teaching university students about the concept of sharing God's story I shared a phrase, "there is no testimony without a test." There is more truth to this than many readers would care to admit. My encouragement to you now, is to come to grips with your past-God will redeem it: invite God to paint His portrait of your future and slow down long enough in your daily living to see how God will work in and through you.
Bill Effler is the author of the recently released book Turning the Church Inside Out. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org