Yesterday I heard Shane Brethowr share a neat story about a man who went to a coffee shop, ordered and sat down at a table with a sign that read, “FREE COFFEE, if I can tell you MY STORY.”
He sat there for two hours and no one took him up on his offer. He left disappointed. Frustrated. And perplexed.
But the next day, he returned to same coffee shop at the same time. Ordered. Sat at the same table. But this time with a different sign that read:
“FREE COFFEE, if you tell me YOUR STORY!”
He sat there for two hours. One person after another sat down to share their story.
Shane concluded, “Everybody’s got a story, but few are able to create real change. Effectively telling your story is listening to the story of others. It’s you creating and living a story.”
Brethowr is the founder of a company called Overflow Story Telling Lab. Their motto is “Get Ideas Adopted.” The goal is to create real change with the companies and people they mentor in business, health care, education and non-profit organizations.
While their approach is innovative, unique and interactive, Shane’s coffee shop story reminded me of an age-old principle from the Bible. The apostle Paul admonished Christians, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4)
Too often, as Christians, we can be guilty of trying to cram our story, even the Gospel story, down the throats of people without understanding who they are and what their story is.
Long before the advent of social media and multi-media technology, we learn principles of social interaction from Jesus. He listened to people. Asked questions. Empathized. Heard their story. And then shared a solution to their problem. The Samaritan woman at the well. Little Zacchaeus. Blind Bartimaeus. The Centurion Soldier. All had a story. And Jesus often asked, “What can I do for you?”
Jesus saw people as important. Significant. With worth, value and dignity. So should we.
The application of this principle can affect positive change and results in our evangelism strategies as we seek to better understand the needs of others. It can improve our marital relationships with more effective communication through listening. It can create a familial bond with our children by demonstrating our care, concern and compassion for the special time of their lives. They, too, have a story, you know.
It’s not enough to desire to change the world. Or the lives of friends and family. Or the church where we worship. To effect change in others, change must begin in our lives. Our attitudes. Our actions. And our approach.
Shane Brethowr was right. “There’s more than one way to tell a story, it’s not just verbal. It’s more than what you say…it’s the person you are. That’s the story others see in you. That’s your story to tell.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman