I wrote a blog post once about how we all need to tell our stories. Second Corinthians tells us there is a purpose in what we’ve lived through—helping others who are walking through the same thing now (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
However, as I mentioned in the discussion with Cassie Rajewich in my podcast this week, I experienced a situation where people weren’t quite sure what my story was, and they seemed unsure about whether they wanted to know it.
I want to challenge each of us to step out of that comfort zone and ask people about their stories. Being a safe place for people to share their stories can be a source of healing in their lives and ours. God can use our testimonies with each other to strengthen and encourage His church—and build it too, for that matter.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19, NLT)
Asking people to share their story:
- Shows we are interested in those around us
- Builds unity
- Allows God’s Spirit to minister to people as they process their own story and as we encourage one another
- Helps us each grow in our faith and understanding
- Gives us a different perspective we may not have experienced before
- Opens opportunities for conversation and communication
- Starts friendships and builds fellowship
- Reiterates that every life is important and matters
- Adds value to those who may feel ignored or marginalized
- Helps us become more fearless in meeting people and reaching out to them
- Allows us to understand another’s needs
- Opens doors for ministry
These are just a few benefits to asking others to share their stories. In my husband and my years of ministry, we’ve been struck by how powerful being heard is. When a person feels heard, they are validated and not dismissed. They are seen and not ignored. The interesting surprise of this is that even if nothing else changes except that a person was heard and seen, the attitude and atmosphere in the relationship changes. That just seems miraculous to me.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (Philippians 2:3-4, NLT)
Try it. Let me know what happens. Walk across the room, step out of your comfort zone of friends, and open a conversation with someone unlike yourself. Ask them about themselves and allow them to share their story as much as they are willing to. And see what God does.
Think outside the box (Here are a few ideas):
Often when we approach a challenge like this, with our culture today, we think of talking to someone with a different skin color, political view, or sexual orientation, but there are many lines people don’t easily cross. Consider these:
Age – If you’re a 30-50-year-old adult: talking to a child, teen, Millennial, Gen Z, or someone older than you (called the silent generation)
Socio-economic – If you are a middle-class individual: talking to a homeless person, a wealthy business owner, a struggling college student, newlyweds, or the wait staff at your favorite restaurant
Marital status – If you are married with kids: talking to someone who is widowed, divorced, single-parenting, new parents, adoptive parents, those struggling with infertility
Faith – If you are a Christian: talking with a brand-new believer, an atheist, an agnostic, an evolutionist, someone from another faith group
And of course, crossing ethnic, political, and sexual orientation lines to open dialogue is always interesting. Consider talking to new immigrants, first-time voters, or those who just seem overwhelmed by our culture right now.
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9, NLT)
Disclaimer and Recommendations: I know some will balk at my recommendation for a book by Bill Hybels in light of the allegations launched against him a few years ago, but he wrote a great book that I think is amazing on this topic of reaching out to people. I have mixed feelings about recommending the book myself, but I also know that I don’t want my whole life and work judged by my mistakes alone. We’ve seen men and women fall throughout history when given too much power, and I really think that is what happens to some who fall. However, the book is still excellent, and you can follow your own conscience about whether you want to buy the book. The book is called Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith. Even if you don’t buy the book, consider watching some of the videos about it. They are good.
This book and the 3 Circles classes have helped me grow in my understanding of sharing my faith. 3 Circles is published by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and is not connected with Willow Creek or Hybels. They are two different resources. The companion book for the 3 Circles class and videos is Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations
I know the Holy Spirit will guide each of us in this adventure and give us wisdom if we will just ask. Our world needs people who care about one another and encourage each other and who will listen to others’ stories without arguing or trying to fix something. Our world needs dialogue and understanding. It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes it is painful, especially if we’re the types of people who want to make everything better. Often, we cannot do that except to be present for people and let them talk. Our goal is not to change anyone. We don’t have that power. But we can listen, learn, and pray.
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!