If you’ve spent any time at all with 5twelve City Church – on the blog, the app, the website, online, or in person – you probably know our vision statement.
Our vision is to see people telling stories of Jesus changing lives through them.
As Christians, we are told over and over to, “Share your testimony!” That’s Evangelism 101. In fact, I once took an evangelism class, and the whole thing was about building out a testimony statement that clearly explains why and how we became Christians, and then learning how and when to share that testimony.
I think the weight we place on telling our conversion stories is daunting for many of us. My husband says, “I don’t have this big, “and I saw the light” moment. I grew up in Church, I have always known Jesus, and here I am.” When he tells people about why he’s a believer, he starts with Jesus. “Two thousand years ago, there was a man on earth named Jesus. It’s a historical fact…” and he goes from there.
Sunday morning, Jurie talked about the Apostle Paul, his life story, and his conversion. Paul had a “shining light in the desert” moment. Throughout the Bible, we read of God plucking people out of barren, lonely, or other unlikely places to do His work. A massive flood, a burning bush, a smooth river stone, a ribbon hung out a window, the belly of a fish… there are so many stories of how God does something totally unexpected to pluck people out of history. Sometimes, I think we feel the pressure to tell that kind of story when we “share stories of Jesus changing lives through us.”
There’s a big difference between a “testimony” and a “story…” at least in our typical Christian vernacular. Notice that the vision statement isn’t “people sharing testimonies of Jesus converting them to Christianity.” Regardless of whether you’ve known Jesus for your whole life or just met Him this morning, you have a life story. If you don’t yet have a “story of Jesus changing lives through you,” you may have a story of Jesus changing your own life. As you grow closer to Him, you’ll find that He uses you in the lives of others, and then your storybook grows.
From 2012-2017, I was a middle- and high-school teacher at a Christian school. I taught forensic science, integrated physics and chemistry, earth science, environmental science, chemistry, and a whole host of electives. By the time I left, I had students I’d taught in five or six different courses. At a small school, the teachers take on courses across many grade levels, and that means the students and teachers get to know one another very well.
When I was a student, I had some teachers who were very “buttoned up” about their personal lives – they never said a word about what was going on outside of school, giving the impression that they just curled up under their desks and waited for morning after all the students left. There were others, though, who let us in and gave us insight about their lives and experiences, helping us to grow as young humans, as well as young learners. These were the teachers who inspired us to invest in more than just our junior high -> high school -> college -> career path.
When I was a teacher, I was pretty open about my life, especially about things God had done in my heart and how He had carried me through tough situations. With my chronic pain, there were days when I was just not all there. I opened up to my students about these issues. “Guys, my pain is really bad today. I’m going to sit down to teach, but we’ll do the best we can!” Students prayed for me, and I prayed for them when they were struggling too. They often asked me, “How do you get up every morning and do what you do, when your physical suffering is so huge?” Those questions opened the door for some amazing conversations.
Since that time, I’ve had several students call or text, wanting to get together and chat about what’s going on in their lives. It’s one of my favorite things to do! Last week, I got a text from a former student who’s just been diagnosed with the pain disorder I have. He said, “I thought I could power through the symptoms. I have learned quite quickly that I can’t and wanted to know if we could meet up so I could learn about how you handle it.”
We met, and we talked about all the medical things that help me deal with life in this broken body. We talked about not being afraid to take the meds the doctors prescribe, at the dosages prescribed, because this disorder has some very effective, well-tested treatments. We also talked about lifestyle changes that have kept me afloat. But even more importantly, we talked about having a support system and leaning on the Lord to get through the tough days.
This series of events might not seem all that extraordinary. All teachers probably have stories about students who called them up after graduation. The difference here, I think, is that God used the physical struggles in my life to open the door for a spiritual conversation. He’s done that over and over throughout my life.
Do you ever feel like you’re bragging, when you tell somebody about how God has used you to change the lives of others? From a young age, we’re taught not to brag on ourselves, and for some of us, that’s gotten twisted into not bragging about anything or anyone, including God. We’re afraid people will think we’re bragging about our own goodness, our own obedience, or our own “spiritual-ness.” All this is a framing issue, though. When couched in terms of, “I’ve GOT to tell you what God just did…” these stories are powerful, helping others’ faith grow by showing God’s faithfulness in our circumstances.
When I read the book of Acts and Paul’s letters, I’m always astonished by how brave Paul was when he talked about Jesus. He shared about Jesus wherever he found himself. But I’ve also seen how Paul was never shy about sharing his own story, even the messy or shameful parts. We know he had medical issues, he persecuted and imprisoned Christians, he witnessed and approved Stephen’s execution-by-stoning. He was so zealous and single-minded about this persecution that Jesus Himself had to come blind him to get his attention. Some of us might be really ashamed and shy about telling stories like this, but Paul just laid it all out. Why? Because the nasty parts of his story shed light on God’s power, compassion, holiness, and faithfulness.
Some of us are called to be the kind of evangelist Paul was – traveling the world and sharing the Gospel in large gatherings, bringing Jesus to whole cities and nations. Most of us, though, are called to be the kind of evangelist Jesus was with His disciples. While Jesus did speak to large crowds, He also spent a great deal of time with his small group of friends, teaching them and guiding them on a more intimate level. Paul’s relationship with his “spiritual son” Timothy was this kind of evangelism.
Here’s how it works. Just be yourself (the “yourself” God has made you into). People will see that there’s something different about you. Maybe you operate with more integrity than others in your workplace. Maybe you seem more grounded and less panicked. Maybe you’re friendlier or more concerned about people as people, not as means to your own ends. Whatever it is, God has changed you into something different, interesting, and attractive. Be that person as well as you can, with God’s support. People are going to gravitate to you and ask questions. Why are you the way you are? What’s different? How do you do it? Then, tell them why, and what, and how. You shine God’s light, and then you tell your story. And then, you share those stories of Jesus changing lives through you, within your community of faith, to bring glory to God and to bolster the faith and courage of the rest of us. Wash, rinse, repeat. The end.
Do you have a story of life change? We would love to hear it. Let us hear how God is transforming your life and the lives of those around you through the power of Christ. Drop us a line at [email protected] or submit a form using the button below! We’ll get in touch and work with you to share your story.
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We are a life-giving church that desires to reach
Austinites and improve the quality of life in the city.
Our vision is to see people telling stories of Jesus
changing lives through them.