They hymn “I Love to Tell the Story” was written by Katharine Hankey. She lived from 1834-1911. It is a wonderful classic hymn that is still sung in some Southern Baptist Churches today. Yet it has an opening line that is interesting…”I love to tell the story of unseen things above…” How does one tell a story of something they have not seen, especially something heavenly (implied)? The refrain goes on to say the “story” is of “Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.”
On of the roles we have as Christians is that of a witness. We are to be sharing the story of Christ and making disciples. By the way, those two things are separate to a large degree. Witnessing is a phenomenon that we do not witness very often. Part of it is because our culture has made the church its evangelistic arm and not the followers of the Christ in the church. Another part of it is because most people are not comfortable sharing the “Roman Road” with their friends, neighbors, and – God forbid – perfect strangers.
In a recent television commercial a man is telling his buddies how he had a problem starting his truck. He proceeds to tell them something of the problem and his efforts to solve it by taking his starter to the local auto parts store. He continues to tell them how they willingly and freely tested his part and said he did not need a new starter, rather he need this XYZ part. Of course the man is impressed because they took time to find the problem and offer an alternative solution which fixed his problem and saved him money. Naturally he finishes the story by saying how much he will rely on that store and its competent employees in the future.
Do you think his buddies were impressed? Of course they were. Do you think the implication of this mans story is that his buddies can trust that parts store too and should shop there? Of course.
Many of us do not hesitate to tell these kind of stories. We are prone to tell the story of a good customer service experience more than we are the love of Christ. Why is that?
I think, in part, it is because it is not a natural occurrence for us, but a contrived one. We think we must get four points of scripture in our story or it will not be witnessing. When in fact, telling what Christ has done for us, is more important than telling someone Romans 3:23 or 6:23. Even John 3:16 can be synthesized to our life, not our ability to know Bible text.
Yes, I know the argument that “God’s word will not return void” and that if we share the scripture the Holy Spirit will do the convicting and convincing. Nevertheless, does quoting a text equally sharing our triumph in the Lord?
While in college, one of the most impressive chapel messages I heard was delivered by one of our professors. He spent 30 minutes or so challenging us with God’s call, never once — never once — quoting a verse of scripture. When he finished, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. The message moved me deeply But later, as I thought back on that message, basically every word that came from his mouth, was a passage from the biblical text. He was telling the story without quoting the story!
When you look at the disciple Stephen’s testimony in the Acts 7 you will note that biggest part of it is indeed “story”. There are only two points where he quotes OT prophecy. The remainder of what he tells his accusers is scripture in story form. And guess what, he did not have a “tract” and he did not have his “Bible”. He had his understanding of God etched in his mind and heart. He had a story that issued from his heart which he was able to tell with conviction.
We may say we love to “tell the story”, when in fact many of us may not know the story well enough to tell it. Yes, we can quote John 3:16, Romans 3:23, 6:26, John 1:12, etc. But can we tell others what Christ has done for us? Can we share the Christ of the Bible and not just the Christ of the most recent tract we were given by our church?
“I love to tell the story; tis pleasant to repeat. What seems each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.”