What do think of when I say, “Tell your story?” Do you go into biography mode and start telling me about your hometown and your family? Or maybe talk about what you did that week? What is your story?
Your story is not mere biography. It is much bigger than that. Your story is what God has been and is currently doing in you. Your story is made up of your family size and personal experiences, but it is also made up of your struggles, failures, hopes, and dreams.
Do you ask others to tell this kind of story? Are you sharing your story with your church?
Telling your story is a beautiful, God-glorifying, church-loving discipline. Here’s why we should encourage personal story-telling in our churches:
It strengthens your church
Your church desperately needs you to tell your story because it communicates how the gospel has shaped your life. Many small groups introduce themselves and tell the story of how they came to know Jesus in initial gatherings. This is an essential part of knowing where each other have come from, but it shouldn’t be the summation of your story telling.
I love Paul’s example of sharing his story with the Philippian church in Philippians 3 and with the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians. He shares details about his life, whether they are of his heritage or of his sufferings, for strengthening the church. We don’t share our stories to be heard, we share what God has been doing in our lives to strengthen our brothers and sisters. Sharing stories strengthens the one telling the story and the one listening.
I grow in deep affection for fellow church members when I hear their stories and when they listen to mine. Telling your story invites others to help bear your burdens (Galatians 6).
It encourages others to follow suit
Not everyone in your church may feel comfortable or equipped to tell their story, but we can create safe spaces for vulnerability when we are the first ones to open up. I’ve heard many people share about the dark places they have found themselves because of depression. Their vulnerability cultivates my vulnerability and gives me courage to share as well.
A story should be honest, but also laced with the hope that we have in Jesus. When we are willing to share the grime and the glory of our stories, we encourage others to do the same. Community is transformed when we step towards one another in love, not when we shy away from each other.
May our churches never be content with small talk. May we instead tell our stories so that we can be fully known and fully loved.
It creates habits of humility
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
It takes humility to be vulnerable, but it also takes humility to listen to the stories of others. Be selfless in your story-telling so that others walk away knowing that you truly care about them. Ask clarifying questions and empathize deeply.
When you are more interested in the stories of others, you learn humility. The more you ask about other people’s stories, the more you regard people with love.
It is a safe guard against assumptions
If you have ever been misunderstood, you know that familiar impulse to explain yourself and make sure that there are no wrong assumptions made about you.
Sometimes I assume that I know why a person is the way that they are, especially if I hold a negative opinion of them. Instead of assuming, I could ask them to tell me their story and in turn combat against bitterness or hatred.
Ask your enemies to tell you their story, and ask questions along the way. You will find it difficult to assume negative things about them because you have been humbled enough to care for them.
It causes you to worship
To tell my story is to tell of the faithfulness of God. Sometimes I may not be aware of how God has been working in me. When I tell my story, I am forced to remember what God has done and give Him praise for his love and care for me.
Likewise, when I know what my brother or sister has endured, and how God has taught them, kept them, and glorified Himself in them, I am drawn to the throne and give praise to God for what he has done in their lives.
We are all members of one body, and when we are “devoted to one another in brotherly love [and] give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10) then we can “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:14).