One of the most effective ways of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others is storytelling. A good example is the story of Saint Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus—a story so compelling that there are three versions of it in the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 9, 22, and 26), and Paul himself alludes to it in his Letter to the Galatians (1:11–24).
Paul’s conversion story, of course, is very dramatic. By comparison, most of our personal conversion stories pale. In fact, many of us might wonder if we even have a story to tell. And this is one of the reasons that many of us feel unqualified to evangelize: we don’t feel that we have a story to tell.
The truth is that each of us has a story.
Whether you were baptized as a child or joined the Church as an adult, you have a story of faith. Whether you sincerely live your faith in quiet or have a great public ministry, you have a story of faith. Whether you have a grade-school knowledge of the Catechism or have a theological degree, you have a story of faith. (Go and Make Disciples, 6, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
In fact, we have many stories! We just need to recognize them and learn how to share them with others. Telling our story of faith is an important part of evangelization and is part of what we call the kerygma—the core message of the Good News. But how do we come to recognize our own stories? Let’s look at some simple strategies drawn from my book, A Church on the Move: 52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion. Identify:
- Significant People. Just as God spoke to his people through Moses and the prophets, God typically speaks to us through other people. Ask: Who are the significant people in my life who have shaped and influenced me and to whom I owe much? No doubt once we think of these significant people, we will recall stories related to their impact on our lives.
- Big or Small Moments of Joy. Throughout Scripture, people who recognize that they have had an encounter with God express that encounter in terms of great joy. By reversing that process, we can come to recognize encounters with God. In other words, by reflecting on moments of joy, whether big or small, we can recognize and tell stories about God’s movement in our lives.
- Peak Moments of Grace. In addition to the everyday small ways that God has manifested his presence to us, each of us can think of a handful of extraordinary moments when we felt we had come face-to-face with the infinite and when God’s presence was almost palpable. Perhaps it was a brush with death, a moment of incredible luck or fortune, a dramatic recovery from an unfortunate situation, or an extraordinary experience of beauty. Moments like these make us aware of a power greater than our own and make for inspiring stories.
- Life’s Milestones. Each of us can identify significant moments when we reach a milestone: a graduation, a new job, a promotion, a birthday or anniversary, or a wedding day, for instance. These events cause us to pause and express gratitude, and when we express gratitude, we find ourselves contemplating the Giver of all good gifts. A story about a milestone in our life becomes a story of faith when we acknowledge God’s grace present within the story.
Storytelling creates an emotional connection that cannot be achieved through debate. If we are to truly, effectively, and kerygmatically evangelize, we need to touch not only people’s minds but also their hearts. And the best way we can do that is by sharing our stories!