Before and After

I am in the middle of a message series designed to teach and encourage sharing your faith story.  We will talk about everything under the sun with people.  However the majority of us avoid faith as a topic of conversation.  Bill Hybels in his book “Just Walk Across the Room” shares a lot of information regarding this but he also shares some ways to bridge the gap and overcome our fears.

I think that one of the reasons we dance around the faith conversation and seldom if ever boldly embrace it is because many of us can’t describe how God has made a difference in our personal lives.  It could be that He hasn’t or that we simply haven’t taken the time to process how He has.

Hybels’ proposes a simple exercise in his book designed to help us name how God has made a difference.  It is a three-pronged approach.

1)  What was life like before you encountered Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?  The process begins by picking one word that best describes life before Jesus.  Here is a very short list:  guilt, fear, selfishness, acquiring, greedy, angry, depressed, despairing, anxious, wandering, unloved, unwanted, addicted, etc.  The beginning is where you probably need to spend the most of your time; process memories and feelings to determine the theme that would describe your life before.

2)  If you have had a personal and real encounter with Jesus Christ name it.  Remember that it is the moment you confessed your sin and need for him, you accepted his grace that washes away all your guilt, and you committed to follow him as a disciple.  This is the lynch pin – if you have not encounter Jesus as Lord and Savior then it could very well be that you are still living in your before story.  If in doubt then hear his invitation now – come and give your life to him; acknowledge your sin and inability to earn his grace; accept his free gift of love, forgiveness and grace; commit to become a full-disciple whose words and deeds will be a representation of his.

3)  So how is your life changed or transformed now that you have met the Savior?  Describe how your life is different now and it is usually terms that are the opposite of what you used to define life before Jesus.  An example would be “I am no longer living in guilt and shame because I am forgiven.  Daily I ask for forgiveness and daily I forgive myself so that I can live in freedom to worship and serve God.”  Take time to define the transformation for yourself.

The key is to keep this down to about 100 words and keep it real.  Use words that are common to the human condition and experience.  Avoid at all cost the mystical and individualized experience of God if you have had one.  Why you might ask?

The purpose of this exercise is to craft your story so that you can easily retell it.  When faith conversations come up (and they do) you won’t feel the need to avoid it because you can simply, concisely and adeptly tell your own story in about 45 seconds.  And you know what – by relating it to humanity’s everyday existence you have the chance to share why God is relevant to our everyday lives.

I challenged our folks to take the time needed to craft their before and after story – I hope you will do the same.  I’ve completed mine and already had the chance to share it a couple of times this week!  Please join me – discover yours, memorize it, and share it.  Then be ready for God to use you to help someone else define their before and after story!

Blessings for the journey.

About Jim Hoffman

Pastor, teacher, leader, novice blogger, wanna be author and Christian conversationalist. Passionate about environmental architecture - creating spaces where people can foster new or growing relationships with each other and God. Currently leads a faith community on Ward Parkway in Kansas City and happily married to Margaret. Blessed with four adult children and two grandsons.
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