Changing the story


Seth Godin has an excellent post on marketing in a recession. His point is this:

“When times are good, buyingSeth Godin things is a sport. It’s a reward. The story we tell ourselves is that we deserve it, that we want it and why not?

When the mass psychology changes and times are seen as not so good, the story we tell ourselves changes as well. Now, we buy out of defense, to avoid trouble. Or we buy because something will never be as cheap again. Or we buy smaller items for the same sense of reward.

Of course, the two different extremes can lead you to buy the very same thing. It’s not the thing so much as it’s the story.” — Seth Godin

What does this have to do with church? We’re in the story business.   We need to tell the story of God so those who hear it change the story they tell themselves about God. Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus But Not The Church, has some clues for us.  But here are some examples of how we can help others change the story they tell themselves:

  1. Their story: “The church doesn’t respect other points of view.” Change this story by actually getting to know some non-church people, not to get them to come to church, but just to be their friend. Listen to them, treat them with respect, back off on the hard-sell, and hear what they are saying. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to listen until you can understand their viewpoint.
  2. Their story: “The church is only interested in me for my money, time, etc.” We are guilty of this often. We see people as prospects, potential church members. What if we saw and related to them as people? Period. What if we served with no thought of anything that might benefit us or our ministry?
  3. Their story: “I don’t need God. I can handle life on my own.”  Here I would tell my story. I’m glad they can handle life, but I find God’s direction, guidance, and purpose to be essential to living my life. No argument, no debate — just two people telling their stories to each other.

The old approach to evangelism was a sales pitch — present the gospel, ask for a commitment, overcome objections, close the deal.   A better way is for the other person to change the story they tell themselves; then, they’re open to finding a new story. Maybe the one you’ve found. What do you think? Is this too indirect? Any experiences to share with helping people change the story they tell themselves?

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2 Comments

  1. Two observations:

    1. If I become friends with someone, I am going to tell them about my very best friend, Jesus. Why would I do this? Not to notch another soul on my belt but, because they are my friend and I care about them. To become friends with someone and not share Jesus as a normal course of conversation is less than loving. If my friend was about to be hit by a falling piano, would it be loving or unloving to tell them of their danger? To me, the answer is obvious.

    2. Telling our story is necessary and vital, however, let’s not deny the power of God’s Word to accomplish His purposes (Isa. 55:11) and penetrate the heart (Heb. 4:12).

  2. Les, well said. My very limited examples missed the point you make — “normal course of conversation.” That is authentic. And, of course, however and wherever we tell our stories, God is about His work in ways unseen to us. Good insights and thanks for sharing your thoughts. — Chuck

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