“I will praise you to all my brothers; I will stand up before the congregation and testify of the wonderful things you have done.” (Psalm 22:22 TLB)
When we want to get to know someone, we might ask questions such as where are they from and how did they end up here, what do they do, and what their major is if they are attending school. Their answers help make up their life story. However, a much deeper story for each person is being written continually, the story of how they came to know God the creator. These God stories, sometimes called testimonies, have power. Sharing your God story can help others recognize their own.
God pursues everyone in personal ways, wanting all people to accept the forgiveness he offers through his son, Jesus, who took on the judgement and death that humanity deserves. Through Jesus, all people can have a personal love relationship with God. God wants each person to accept his offer of a personal love relationship. The ways in which God moved to help you accept his offer becomes a part of your own God story.
Throughout the Bible there are many examples of people telling their God stories. Such as the woman at the well in John 4; this woman who was a social outcast in her community immediately went out and shared with everyone in her town about her remarkable interaction with Jesus. The Apostle Paul shared his God story in Acts 26 when he provided his defense to King Agrippa. Paul told of his life before coming to meet Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, his encounter with Jesus and his actions since that time. Both the woman at the well and Paul recognized the importance of talking with others about the ways God had moved in their lives.
The Power of Sharing Your Story
Telling how you accepted a personal relationship with God can have a profound impact on others. Abby Zou (IFI Columbus staff) shared some of ways she has seen people’s God stories touch those who hear them. (Students’ names have been changed to protect the individuals) “Yao” had experienced the tragic loss of a family member. Every time she told how God brought her out of darkness into light, it was very powerful. Abby recalled having dinner with Yao in a restaurant where they happened to see two other friends, “Jing” and “Xiao.” The previous evening, Abby, Yao, Jing, and some others had been praying that Xiao would accept what Christ had done on her behalf. While at the restaurant, Jing and Xiao joined Abby and Yao. Yao shared her story, and Xiao decided to start following Jesus that very night! Abby says that recently another girl, Lin, also turned to God after hearing Yao’s story, which she related to.
Sharing in Your Native Language
Ryan Finke (IFI Columbus staff) also has seen the power of people sharing their God stories. Rachel, a Chinese student in Ryan’s group, had decided to follow Jesus through another IFI Bible study a few months before they met. At one meeting of Ryan’s group, Rachel told how God introduced himself to her and described her journey to him. Rachel shared her story in her native language, Mandarin, with the other people in the Bible study who also spoke Mandarin. After Rachel shared her story, Ryan asked if someone would retell Rachel’s story in English for the benefit of the few present who did not speak Mandarin. Ting, (who did not believe in God) retold Rachel’s story in English. Ting’s translation showed that she understood the story. When the group asked Rachel questions about her story in Mandarin, Ting had many. Ryan was encouraged to see this happening in the native language of so many present. Ryan’s wife, Liz, added that it impacted those present when they saw Rachel cry with joy as she told about her decision to follow Jesus.
Ryan also told about Rachel and another new Christian, Ming, sharing their stories when they got baptized. Ming’s story was very simple: She was just glad to know Jesus. Yet her simple story stood out to a Chinese visiting scholar who attended the baptism. This person was struck by how both Rachel and Ming were at different places with God, yet both were being baptized. Ryan suspects that this person might have thought that Christians must be very committed to God in order to get baptized. Guy Deal (IFI Columbus staff) says that usually when people (even those who aren’t Christians) attend baptisms and hear people’s stories, they become more open to things of God, more attentive, and they always applaud and are joyful in that occasion.
We encourage you to tell your story! Remember: It’s not just for you. God can use it to draw others into His family! Often people hesitate to share their story since they think it is not impressive. If this is the case for you, be encouraged! Many people may feel as you do, hesitant to share how God has worked in their lives in simple ways. Sharing your story can help people see the ways in which God is working in their own lives, especially if they relate to your story personally. Remember, it can have a profound impact on people when peers share their stories.
What to Include in Your Story:
Before following Jesus
- Include what your life was like before you started to follow Jesus.
Why you started to follow Jesus
- Tell how you came to know about God and Jesus. Explain how your views and feelings about God and Jesus have changed.
- Include why you decided to follow Jesus and what moved you toward that decision.
How your life has changed since starting to follow Jesus
- Tell what has happened since you started to follow Jesus, how God has changed you. Abby encourages that the best story is the one unfolding in your life now, God’s ongoing involvement in your life.
- Say how grateful you are to know God.
Helping Someone Prepare to Share Their Story:
- When Liz Finke helps students prepare to share their story, she tells them that sharing their story is a great way to share their faith with others, that it provides opportunities to invite friends to hear their story, and that telling their story is also a great leap of faith for them personally.
- Their story does not have to be a long or highly detailed discussion. Nor does it have to be impressive. Internationals (and anyone, really) can struggle with feeling as though their story needs to be “big.” Remind them that not everyone’s story is dramatic. Abby encourages people to be real with their story and share their struggles such as: they were only going to church for the food served afterward or to pursue a romantic interest. Perhaps they didn’t believe the Bible but thought they should. Abby reminds that it’s good to share real struggles since others can relate to them.
- Help the person to think about the decision he/she made to accept Christ. Liz suggests asking,“Why did you feel like God was moving you to make that choice?”
Places to Share Your Story:
You can share your God story with others in many situations. Here are a few ideas:
Ryan says you don’t have to tell your story in a religious setting. You can share your story wherever opportunities arise. A friend shared his story in a professional workshop he facilitated. His friend’s story gave those attending a look into what kind of a person he is and some of his background. Ryan, who attended the workshop, remarked that his friend’s sharing his God story in that setting was bold and impressive, yet very natural and refreshing.
In the car
Ryan shares his own story when he picks up international students from the airport. Ryan uses the drive from the airport to get to know something about the student and to tell him about himself. Ryan’s story varies in length, but Ryan tells how he didn’t used to follow God, who he used to be, and why he follows Jesus now.
At Bible studies
People share their stories at the IFI Bible study Liz attends. Liz says that telling their stories at the Bible study is a great way for students to practice sharing their stories in casual conversation. Liz mentions that it may be new for international students to share their stories in group settings as well as in one-on-one conversations. Their stories can affect the those students who don’t know God attending the Bible study, encouraging them to think more about their own relationship with God or to move toward following Jesus.
Telling Your Story in Parts
Guy Deal (IFI Columbus staff) says that writing out your story enables you to pull bits and pieces from it to tell in different situations. Guy encourages all Christians to write out their story, to walk back through it and remember what God has done in their life. Abby adds that Christians need the guidance of the Holy Spirit for when to share parts of their stories with different people. Abby explains it’s still your story, but you can highlight different aspects of God’s faithfulness to you that correspond to different situations. Abby suggests that after sharing your story with someone, follow up with that person, if possible. Ask their reaction to it. Is anything unclear, confusing? Be humble and open as you ask.
Tips for Preparing Your Story
- Pray, asking God to calm your nerves.
- Remember that sharing your story honors God.
- Prepare ahead of time what you would like to say; write it out.
- Remember that it does not have to be long!
- Do not worry if your story is not dramatic! Your story about what God has done in your life is unique to you, so share it! You do not know who may be touched by your story.
Telling Your Story Helps Others Tell Theirs
Our stories can have a profound effect on those who hear them. Ryan said when he was younger, he was impacted by the story of a peer, someone he already knew and felt close to. Hearing his friend’s story encouraged Ryan to tell his own. It also motivated Ryan to encourage others to tell their stories, since he had experienced firsthand the powerful effect that hearing someone’s God story can have in the lives of others. Think about the ways God could use your story to change others’ thoughts.
God is involved in your life in very personal ways. Reflect on what God has already done for you and what he is doing now. Write an account of what God has done in your life. Share it with someone today and encourage others to share their stories as well.