Who Will Tell the Story? (Sept-Dec 2003)

By Matt Dabbs

By Larry Bridges

The couple sat with family and close friends before the eldership of their church seeking prayer for their son caught in addictive behavior. As the account of their son’s addiction, apprehension and proposed therapy unfolded, the mother boldly proclaimed, “For God to get the glory, we must share the story.

Unfortunately, few churches are safe places where embarrassing and painful stories can be told without resulting judgment and exclusion instead of grace and celebration of God’s deliverance. Additionally, the very concept of testimony in our church assemblies evokes shivers of trepidation to elders, ministers and worship leaders. Too many excesses, too little focus and too much miscommunication have been experienced by all of us to prevent us from enthusiastically embracing testimony as an essential element of the worship experience.

However, the history of kingdom activity illustrates how crucial telling our story must be to the living witness of God in our lives. People are convicted of the reality of God by hearing how he has intersected with us in our most vulnerable moments. Christians are emboldened to believe. Seekers are drawn into relationship. Even unbelievers will be sent to their knees in the presence of authentic Christian witness in the assembly (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

If we are to reach a culture increasingly convicted of the work of God experientially, we must join this Christian sister in proclaiming, “For God to get the glory, we must share the story.

Telling God’s Story is Critical
God told Moses to “tell your children and grandchildren” of God’s dealings with Pharoah in order that they “may know that I am the LORD” (Ex. 10:2). There is no less need to tell the story of God’s interaction today. In fact as this issue of New Wineskins reveals in numerous ways, the time has never been more appropriate in our lifetimes to find effective ways to tell God’s story.

It is important to note that the story to be told is God’s. Much of what we resist as we consider the use of personal testimony in our worship assemblies results from focus on ourselves rather than God.

Self-flagellation or self-promotion is not the story of God, but that of an ego too unhealthy to recognize God’s role in the story. For story to be effective, it must be about what God has done without self-focus.“‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt”  (Ex. 13:8).  This is not the account of what Moses did, but what God accomplished.

As the angel instructed the apostles who had been jailed by the jealous religious leaders of their day, “[T]ell the people the full message of this new life”  (Acts 5:17-20). The “full message” is what our age craves to hear. The life changed by the power of God. The illness healed by a caring Father. The relationships reconciled by the Spirit of Christ. These are the stories that draw people to the cross of Christ.

It is no longer sufficient to merely share the principles of God’s truth, we must share the truth of God’s principles as they are manifest in the multifaceted lives of Christians who are being transformed daily by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). Christian theological theory only gains force from the people it changes who are on display to a culture hungry for spiritual authenticity.

Practical Suggestions for Sharing the Story
With appropriate leadership and experience, the dreaded “open mic” can be a valuable method of letting God tell his story through his people. Indeed, there are numerous ways in which testimony can be incorporated into our assemblies in a less risky fashion.

The following approaches to the telling of God’s story have worked successfully in worship settings in many churches. What will work in one church may not work in another. However, “For God to get the glory, we must share the story.

Recasting Biblical Stories
Churches that can incorporate drama in their assemblies have many options for telling the story in ways that resonate with people today. Many preachers will not wish to acknowledge it, but sometimes a well delivered dramatic piece will be recalled and discussed far longer than the sermon topic or its main points will be remembered. Drama alone is never enough to tell the story, but drama used in conjunction with a word from the Word can be far more effective than one without the other.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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