I sat on the back porch telling stories with a new friend for about two hours last night. We chatted about where we were from and our thoughts on religion and how we met our wives and our plans for the next few years. I began to realize how I had gotten into conversational ruts with people I knew well, and I was taken aback by how meaningful it felt to tell stories I hadn’t told in a long time and share about plans I hadn’t fully formed. In the end, I walked away from that conversation with around eight mosquito bites and the strong feeling that we had been standing (well…sitting) on holy ground.
Similarly, there is a phenomenon called ‘The Moth’ that has taken off in every major U.S. city. They have a hugely popular podcast, and tickets always sell out. What is it? Storytelling. That’s it. People stand in front of a mic with no notes and share with a room full of strangers about a thing that happened to them. Sometimes the stories are hilarious; other times they are painful. Oftentimes they are a little of both. Whatever they are, I can tell you that roughly 70% of the time I listen to ‘The Moth’ I find myself both laughing and crying. It gets embarrassing when I’m at a stoplight.
More important than my emotional instability is the fact that young adults have FLOCKED to Moth experiences. There’s something about it that seems so raw and so pure that people can’t get enough of these stories.
All of this is to say: I think we are starving to hear about one another’s experiences more than we realize.
I also can’t help but think that I and my friend were practicing a form of evangelism last night: sharing stories about what we believe and how our beliefs have shaped our lives.
Problem is, the very word “evangelism” strikes fear in many-a-typical-churchgoer. We have NO IDEA how to engage in such a thing, and there’s a pretty good chance that’s because the word evangelism conjures up images of this guy.
Now, with all due respect to that guy…please, please don’t be that guy.
What if we just regularly carved out time and space for our congregations to share their stories (and got better at talking about our faith in the process)? What if we had a little “porch time” in our small groups, worship services, or fellowship hours? What if we intentionally invited people from the community who have NO interest in being a part of a church to share their stories? What if we learned more about God, ourselves, and others in the process?
I suppose what I’m saying is that evangelism that starts with “here’s my experience…” strikes me as a lot more helpful than starting with “here’s what you need to do…”
Give it a try, and let us know how it goes.