Summary: In today's world, a well told story will be heard regardless of the content. Luke tells Paul's conversion story, giving us a framework in which to share ours. Consider these thoughts from Scott Jewell, our Family Minister.
Read Acts 9:1-31. Pray.
What is the most memorable sermon illustration you’ve ever heard? I’m pretty confident that the first thing that came to mind was a story. I’ll take it one step further- I’ll bet it was a personal story the preacher told on himself. If I’m wrong, you can collect an extra taco when you come over to our open house this afternoon. The preacher I grew up learning my faith from would be proud of the illustration that immediately came to mind as I considered this question for myself. I don’t remember his text, I don’t remember his point. What I remember is his sharing a story about getting really cool red jeans for his birthday and in his efforts to not miss out on anything at his party, he ended up with wet jeans. I remember thinking, “Wow, he just shared that from the pulpit. This guy is really confident in who he is in Christ and is willing to let us see his faults.” His transparency was part of what encouraged me to pursue being in ministry.
A lot of church experts are writing articles, creating facebook posts, and recording podcasts bemoaning this idea that young people are leaving the church en masse. Surveys indicate that our nation is increasingly unchurched as more and more people respond by saying they have no religious affiliation. So how do we reach people who may have been burned or decided they have no need for God in their lives?
The Institute for American Church Growth asked over 10,000 people this question: "What was responsible for you coming to your church?" This is how they replied.
I had a special need 2%
I just walked in 3%
I liked the Preacher 6%
I visited there 1%
I liked the Sunday School 1%
I liked the programs 3%
A friend or relative invited me 79%
Bob Russell once illustrated this idea at the Southeast Christian Church Leadership Conference. He told us of a time he approached a visitor and asked how they had come to the church. They told him so-and-so invited them. He went to so-and-so and asked the same question and they pointed him to someone else. This repeated like five times before he got to someone who answered that they saw the sign as they were driving by and decided to come in and check them out. This one person’s invitation led to as many as 7 families finding Christ and their church as of that time.
Now, some of you may be thinking to yourself, “Oh no, he’s asking me to put myself out there and share some long, difficult to remember, formula for winning people to Christ and getting them to join the church.” Let me assure you, I’m not going to teach you Evangelism Explosion, Romans Road, or some other script to share your faith and win people to Christ. I want to encourage you that it can be much simpler than that. You simply need to share your story.
We see it more and more in the world around us. Story has become king. Young people are immersing themselves in movies, television, youtube videos, and even video games that tell a story. The subject matter can be horrid as long as the story is told well, they will listen.
I believe this gives us an easy in to reach the next generation. We simply need to tell our stories. They will argue the facts we know from scripture and other supporting evidences, but they can’t argue your experience. They can’t deny what has happened in your life as you’ve learned to trust in Jesus. They need to hear more of our stories, whether we’re the hero or the heel, our stories can make an impact for Christ and bring glory to God among those who are listening.
Luke also saw storytelling as important. In fact, he shares Saul’s conversion 3 times. Probably one of the most important evangelism tools Saul had was his story of conversion. We can learn how to share our own stories by following the example of Saul.
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Let’s break down Saul’s story and consider how we might share our own.
Saul’s story begins in Acts 9:1-2 by describing his extreme devotion as a Pharisee. He was very zealous for God, but rejected this Jesus the Christians spoke of. He was there to approve the stoning of Stephen and is willing to travel in his efforts to put an end to Christianity.
Some of you have just as dramatic a beginning. You lived a life that the world would embrace but not so much by God. There was no doubt that you were living in rebellion against God or maybe completely denied His existence. These stories, like Saul’s can be very dramatic and make a big impact on others who have found themselves caught up in similar life choices.