I had the privilege of teaching this past weekend in our services at Dayspring Fellowship. We are in a series from the book of Acts, and my assignment was chapter 13. With the help of a friend, who courageously told her incredible story (you can download it from the church website), I shared some principles about evangelism. Among many other things, I said that every Christian should know how to lead somebody to the Cross. And, if you can't, you should get a tract, memorize the verses and principles and practice.
I also talked about the importance of our personal faith stories (including, but not limited to our salvation story), and how God uses them in the lives of others. In this section I shared that all good stories have three parts (a beginning, middle and end). With regards to our faith stories they should include conflict/tension (why you needed Jesus to show up), resolution (how He showed up) and transformation (how you were different because He showed up). 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us to be prepared to share the hope of our salvation. Get that: be prepared.
I got some incredible feedback. God was clearly in the house. Val's testimony rocked!
But there's always a naysayer in the house...in this case two.
We hosted a couple who were visiting with their friend, who was just coming back to the Lord. After the service this couple decided that they needed to share their thoughts with me. After making sure I knew that they were very involved in their own church, in which he was a deacon, they proceeded to let me know how they wept as I preached because I was so inaccurately representing scripture. They told me that no where in scripture does it say to use a tract to lead people to Jesus. Nor does it say that a story should have a beginning, middle and end. And, in practicing our stories we relegate the telling to a performance.
My bad. They are right. No where in the Bible does it say to use a tract to lead someone to Christ. No where does it say that a story has a beginning, middle and end. For the record I never said it did.
Let me pause, and say that I assume they were well intentioned. Their delivery wasn't hurtful. Their concern was real. In no way do I wish to bad mouth them. I prayed in that moment, as I continue to pray, that God's glorious grace would wash over them and give them understanding...both of scripture and the effect of their words.
I tell this three part story because we have all been on the receiving end of other people's expectations. Generally we only realize it because we let them down in some way, and they make sure that we know we've done so. How do you respond in this moment? Does anger overtake you? Does the unfairness make your back straighten? Do you feel pity? Do you want to use your own words to make sure they understand your point?
Would that really help?
When I am faced with these moments (and since I live my life on stage I have the privilege of facing them relatively often), I always search for any truth that God has for me in their words...regardless of the delivery. If he can use Balaam's donkey to speak truth, he can use a couple like I've described (in no way am I saying they are donkeys, just that God's truth can be found in unexpected places).
But note...it's about the truth that God has for me. Not their truth. Many years ago a mentor taught me some beautiful words, "I'm sorry. You have expectations for me that I won't be able to meet." How very freeing...and God honoring.
This weekend I said to them, "I'm sorry I disappointed you." And, truthfully, I was. But I wouldn't change a thing. I serve a Higher Power and I know He wasn't disappointed. They'll can have it out with Him. He takes all my complaint calls. God's truth for me in that moment was to laugh (inside voice...not outside voice) at the absolute insanity of what they were saying. And then I walked away free. No regrets.
How would you have responded? Words matter. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what
is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may
benefit those who listen."