Conversation changes things: 11 things I’ve learned from asking others to share their stories

How is God at work in your life? Or in the life of your city? These two questions guided a course of conversations that spanned nearly two weeks and 8 cities. We, my friend Brittnie and I, gathered in churches and in homes with small groups of people to exchange stories.

It was a fascinating experience. We sat with people we’ve known and those we’d never met to gather stories and to encourage believers in their walks with Jesus. In each city we had individuals either write or tell a story of how they see God at work.

I learned a few things along the way. These lessons I’m going to share with you.

1. It is a crucial part of faith to be story tellers. We need to be in the practice of speaking aloud the things we experience God doing in our lives. It both encourages those around us and reminds us that God is at work.

2. Story telling helps us remember. The story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan river on dry ground and God commanding a stone altar be built to help people remember. So that for generations the people of God could share how God parted the sea and saved the nation. We need help remembering God’s faithfulness. (Joshua 4)

3. Story telling is an act of worship. When we tell stories of what God has done or is doing in our lives we are placing Him as the object of our worship and the good that is being done in and around us. The Psalms are filled with stories of God at work and praise being given to Him for His leading the people, saving individuals, setting the captives free and so on. When we tell our story and give God the credit, we worship Him.

4. Story telling builds intimacy. Isn’t is amazing how one question can change the course of a friendship! My friend Mike, a wise man, encouraged me to ask my friend Brittnie while on the road trip to go back in her memory as far as she could go and tell me everything she could remember. So I did. I heard a story of faith, a story of struggle, a story of beauty. We grew in intimacy the longer we both shared. When you ask someone to share their story, you are asking them to give part of themself to you. It is sacred and it is powerful.

5. Story telling speaks to the character of God. Remember the woman at the well? Jesus encountered her, they exchanged stories. The truth of her story was revealed and she was changed. She ran in to the middle of town and told everyone around her the story of her encounter with Jesus and they were drawn to him.

6. Story telling leads others to Jesus. When the woman at the well told her story, the whole town was intrigued and flocked to Jesus. Because of her story, many wanted to know this Jesus too and they also believed in him. A whole city was changed as a woman shared the story of her encounter with Jesus.

7. Story telling encourages. In his letters, Paul was responding to stories he had heard or was telling stories of his own as he taught and corrected the believers in many cities. Reading through his letters alone, one will see how a story of a person or circumstance was used for the encouragement of others. Paul desired believers to gather and I believe that was in part due to the fact that by being together and exchanging stories, people would be encouraged.

8. When people are not asked to share their stories, their story may never be told. One woman shared with us that she wasn’t allowed to tell stories and that she didn’t really know how. Imagine if no one ever asked you to tell a story. Imagine you go on a life changing trip and your best friend picks you up from the airport and begins to talk about the weather instantaneously. Imagine that friend doesn’t stop talking about the weather and drives you all the way home with out once asking for a story from your trip. Both you and your friend missed out.

9. Being asked to tell one’s story, validates their story. (period.)

10. Being asked to share a story of what God is doing in one’s life begs the question, “Is God doing anything in my life?”. Do I see it? Can I recognize it? The more the question is asked, the quicker our ability to answer. We are not a people who naturally tell stories of God at work. When we ask, we are training senses to be looking for God.  We then live expecting to see God daily.

11. Being asked to share my story also begs the question, “what kind of story am I living?”. We might just live better stories if we are asked to share them regularly!

There is power in your story.  There is evidence of God in your story and in the stories of others around you. Have a dinner party with some friends and ask the question, “What is God doing in your life?” then see what happens. You might just be surprised!

What have you experienced or learned from story telling or listening? What would you add to this list?

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