Tell the story that’s *yours* (For the Church)

enticing-enough

My series at For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer,” continues. The first post addressed the dangers of rushing into leadership roles. The second takes a step back to look at getting grounded in the Bible. The third, is my encouragement to tell the story that’s yours:

We tend to follow a pretty standard three-point summary:

  • what your life was like before becoming a Christian
  • what happened to draw you to Christ
  • what your life is like now.

I’m pretty sure that there’s no Christian who couldn’t divide up their story in this fashion.

But that doesn’t mean our stories are meant to fit neatly into a template.

The first time I realized this was when I tried to share my testimony in Honduras. It was 2006, I’d been a Christian for just over a year, it was my first missions trip, and it was super-awkward. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what happened (though I did), nor was it that I was particularly uncomfortable in front of a crowd (though I was). What made it awkward was the way I was telling the story wasn’t right.

Remember the standard three-point summary? Well, usually when you hear it, it goes something like this:

“Before I was a Christian, my life was a mess. I was living for myself, joyful on the outside but empty on the inside, numbing my insecurities with drugs, alcohol and/or sex with random strangers. One night, things reached a breaking point—I hit rock bottom—and I gave my life to Jesus. After that, I realized I’d found what I’d been looking for and now I’m living my life for him, serving in my church and found an extra five dollars in my coat this morning.”

Okay, that probably came across a little cheeky, but I don’t mean it to be glib. When I hear how God has brought someone to this obvious breaking point, and taken them through the proverbial fire, and when I see how their lives have been changed through their relationship with Jesus Christ, I am so thankful. But not everyone has an obvious rock bottom moment. And for some of us, the story doesn’t get better at the end.

Keep reading at For the Church.

They will argue your experience, but share it anyway

share-your-story

A few years ago, a couple friends and I were hanging out with colleagues of ours from the Netherlands. As we enjoyed some chicken wings and soda, one of them asked me, “So how did you get saved?”

I hesitated for a moment, and then told him the short(ish) version: that both my wife and I were attacked by demons, I asked Jesus to save me (which he did), and it all stopped. After what seemed like several minutes of stunned silence, one of my friends said, “And if I didn’t know him, I’d think he was crazy, too.”

This wasn’t the first time that’d happened, either. A couple of years prior to that, back when I used to frequent the message boards of a couple of big name comic book writers, an artist named Alex wanted to hear from people who’d had a conversion experience (he was and is not a believer, to the best of my knowledge). I offered to share what happened, which he was glad to hear about… but then suggested it probably wasn’t actually something supernatural that happened, but sleep paralysis. And then there was the time when… You get the idea, right?

As you can imagine, I have a hard time telling people about how I came to faith. Now, it’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because there’s some freaky deaky stuff in there, I’ve come to expect people to back away slowly. And to be honest, it gets a little disheartening when people look at me as though I’ve got two heads and one has spinach in its teeth. And it frustrates me to no end when I see the cavalier attitude with which some charismaniac nitwits brag about such thing because I’ve had experiences that would make them tremble in their biker boots.

Some well-meaning people will tell you that the best tool in your evangelistic arsenal is your testimony—no one can argue it. They can’t tell you that isn’t really what happened… y’know, except for when they do. And make no mistake: they will. But you know what? I still try to tell it, awkwardness and all. Why? Because it’s how God saved me.

The same is true for you. Whether it was a seemingly mundane experience or a terrifying one, how God saved you is how he saved you. You might feel awkward, but you know what? Share it anyway.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

How a French Atheist Becomes a Theologian

Guillaume Bignon:

If French atheists rarely become evangelical Christians, how much rarer it is for one to become an evangelical Christian theologian. So what happened? One might argue that with 66 million French people, I’m just a fluke, an anomaly. I am inclined to see it as the work of a God who says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (Rom. 9:15). Hearing the facts may help you decide for yourself.

How to Succeed in Evangelical Twitterland

Jared Oliphant:

Not every pithy saying I conjure up needs to be shared publicly, and almost all of them serve the church only minimally, if at all. The textbook definition of aphorism is “a short phrase that expresses a true or wise idea.” Evangelicals could use a hefty dose of truth and wisdom to go along with our publicly posted ideas. Whether that translates into a large following, a bunch of retweets, or any other form of human praise should pale in comparison to quality and faithfulness of content, whatever its form.

Mothering in the Internet Age

Betsy Childs:

Between websites and message boards and Facebook groups, women have access to more parenting data and advice than ever before. Mothers can keep up with the latest safety standards and nutrition trends. They chat with women across the country whose children have the same ailments. They can even connect with other mothers online during a midnight feeding!

Given the wealth of information, do younger women still need older women when it comes to mothering? I’ve seen the research-oriented culture of modern mothering drive a wedge between young women and older women. Older women mock young mothers for being so safety-conscious. Younger women dismiss older women because they don’t know the latest car seat safety standards, or they suggest that the baby would sleep better on his stomach.

Give Me the Doubly Offensive Jesus, Please

Trevin Wax:

Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance. The church is offended that Jesus’ call is for sinners. The world is offended that He calls for repentance.

That’s why the world minimizes His exclusive claims until Jesus is reduced to a social justice warrior who affirms people as they are. And that’s why the church minimizes His inclusive call until Jesus is reduced to a badge of honor for church folks who think their obedience makes them right with God.

Book Review: Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson

Title: Permission to Speak Freely
Author: Anne Jackson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

“What is one thing you feel you can’t say in church?”

When Anne Jackson published that question on her blog in May, 2008, she wasn’t prepared for the response. 497 comments (and counting) later, she knew she’d hit on something significant: A large number of people feel like they can’t be open and honest about their struggles with their church.

Jackson knows something about this. As the daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor, Jackson struggled with pornography addiction, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, sexual abuse at the hands of a youth pastor and depression. For years, she never felt the freedom to share these things with anyone but those closest to her (including her husband). In Permission to Speak Freely, Jackson shares her struggles and what she’s learned about the healing & freedom that comes from opening up about our sins, temptations and abuses we may have faced.

This book is messy. Jackson’s writing is alternatingly funny, raw, and at times all-together heartbreaking. Reading her struggles with depression and attempts to push away her husband… this really hit me hard as a man whose wife struggles with depression.

In all honesty, the fact that she could even gather up the courage to share her struggles the way she has in Permission to Speak Freely is to be applauded. It’s extremely helpful for others to know they’re not alone in facing depression, sexual temptation, pornography addictions… The worst thing we can do to ourselves in our sin is to convince ourselves that we’re the only ones who face whatever it is that tempts or has power over us. Sharing her experiences with pornography, drugs and depression shows others that they too can overcome. They can speak up. They can be healed. They can have hope.

This—what she refers to in the book as “the gift of going second”—is a great gift indeed.

There were, however, a some things in the pages of Permission to Speak Freely that didn’t sit quite right. [Read more…]

By Grace Alone: My Story

grace-alone

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I tend to shy away from talking about it too much because people might think I’m nuts. Then, I remembered that I worship Jesus and most people think I’m nuts anyway. So, for better or for worse, here’s my story:

A Bit of History

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, or one that really practiced any sort of religious belief (unless watching Star Trek religiously counts). From what I recall, the only time someone said “God” or “Jesus” was when someone was exasperated. I learned a couple years ago that apparently I went to Sunday School a few times when I was about six, but the only thing I remember is making a guitar out of yarn and styrofoam plates.

I suppose that’s an indicator of what I learned there, isn’t it? [Read more…]

Sunday Shorts (06/28)

Marvin Olasky: With Calvin in the Theater of God

Desiring God’s 2009 National Conference, With Calvin in the Theater of God, is coming up this September with an interesting line of speakers, including Marvin Olasky, editor of World Magazine.

Olasky has a very intriguing testimony, as you can see from this video:

You can learn more about the conference at DesiringGod.org.

Michael Jackson: A Tortured Existence

Tim Challies offers some thoughts on the recent death of Michael Jackson:

So the king is dead. What a sad end to a sad life; a pathetic end to a pathetic life (by which I mean to use pathetic in its true sense as “arousing pity and sympathy). I don’t know that I have ever seen, in one man, such a combination of self-love and self-loathing, shocking narcissism combined with equally shocking self-hatred. Truly Michael Jackson was unparalleled.

Read the rest at Challies.com.

Piper vs. Wright on Justification: A Layman’s Guide

Trevin Wax put together a handy layman’s guide to understanding the debate on justification between John Piper and NT Wright. A primer was recently featured in Christianity Today (you can also download it as a chart).

Trevin and Ted Olsen also co-wrote the article, “Not an Academic Question,” which let pastors sound off on how this theological debate influences their ministry.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Don’t Waste Your Life Jim thought he had everything, until…

Book Review: Pastor Dad Reviewing Mark Driscoll’s recent Father’s Day gift to all the men online

With Grace Comes Boldness The power of the gospel and sovereignty of Christ should inspire boldness