God’s Mission is all about stories, his story and our story (or testimony if you like Churchy speak) join together, the events of the cross, empty tomb and the upper room of Pentecost 2000 years directly affecting our real and everyday lives today, now.
We are all called to be witnesses and to testify to what we have seen and heard.
The Bible really values the importance of Testimony, it says in the book of Revelation “they overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”.
Our story meets God’s story in a beautiful harmonious melody, as the two stories blend together, the stories playing (more or less) as the creator/composer intended.
And yet today I want to talk about mission and evangelism (I know I do keep on talking about it), often people ask me what I think makes a good evangelist, and when I give my answer they look at me like I’m a bit mad (and they’re probably right!)… My answer is simply “Listen. No, really Listen, hear their story”.
We are often so keen to talk about how our story and God’s story joined up, that we don’t ever listen to other people, we don’t ask their stories.
Yet when we don’t listen to them, we do God a disservice, because I believe God will have been at work in the lives of all we speak to (although his fingerprints may have been unnoticed)… Part of listening is enabling them to see the hand of God in their lives, to see him gently tap on their hearts drawing them to himself.
Listening also conveys love and value. One of the most beautiful and powerful things we can do for another human being is to listen to them, I mean REALLY listen to them.
Also, as we listen to their stories, then in mutual exchange of relationship there will come an opportunity to naturally share our story.
We so often what to push our stories down peoples’ throats and not listen to them, or we listen long enough to think of a pithy comeback but not at any real depth, we forget Peter’s approach to faith sharing “always be prepared to give an account for the hope that you have, but do so with Gentleness and respect”… yet part of gentleness and respect is getting to know people, building relationships, loving them even if they don’t want (at this time) to hear your story and listening to them.
Also, as we listen we hear more clearly, as we listen that should change us, change what we say, alter us by the encounter and so then more patient fruit is more likely to be fruit that will last than seeds that fall on the path (don’t take root).
Yet as we listen to someone else, we also, by God’s grace and mighty paradox, find that we are hearing God speak to us.
Street Pastors talk of double listening, listen to what is going on (both what people say, and what the community is saying, the listening that happens with your eyes) and listening to the still small voice, the Holy whisper of God’s Holy Spirit.
So, mission I believe is about hearing and telling stories, listening and interacting in God’s stories, listening and interacting in the stories of those around us, and celebrating the ultimate concerto seeing not only our story combined with God’s story, but also the stories of those around us join in with both our story and the story of God, part of the local melody of the chorus of God in his Church.