Faithbook — Biblical Truths for the Digital Age: “Your Story”

Faithbook–Biblical Lessons for the Digital Age: “Your Page (Your Story)”
A Message on 2 Corinthians 5:11-15

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Aug.12, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

2 Corinthians 5:11-15 (NRSV)


Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.


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What’s your story?


On Facebook there is a section called “Your Story.” It is a way to share “your story” visually with all your “friends” on Facebook or only selected friends. And after 24 hours it disappears.


Now I do Facebook, but I don’t do Facebook Stories. I just don’t have the desire to post something that will disappear in 24 hours. I just don’t see the point.


But apparently people do. They have some unique camera filters that you can apply to your photos and I see some of them on Facebook, but I don’t go back and check in 24 hours to see if they’re gone.


The idea is to tell people about you, about your life, about what’s happening in your life.


Even if you don’t do the “Stories” section, what you post on Facebook tells a story about your life. And it can be good, or… well, you know.


As Christians we have a story to tell as well. We each have a faith story. Sometimes we tell our faith story. Sometimes we think that we don’t, and sometimes that is true. But sometimes by not telling our faith story we are actually telling, ironically, a faith story, and not a good one.


Back in August of 2000, which would be 18 years ago, I attended a spiritual retreat called “Walk to Emmaus.” It was a three day retreat that had a profound effect on my spiritual journey. During that weekend I heard some people tell some incredible faith stories. I heard a man tell his faith story on how he had overcome an addiction to drugs through the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I heard another man tell his faith story of how he treated his wife badly, having affairs with other women and not feeling guilty about it, and then after experiencing Jesus he turned his life around and now has a strong and loving relationship with his wife. I heard a man tell his faith story about overcoming an addiction to alcohol that cost him his family, his career, and money, and yet through a renewed faith in Jesus Christ he turned it all around and was now sober, employed, and repairing family relationships that had almost been destroyed.


I remember thinking that I must be missing something in my life. I didn’t have any of those kinds of dramatic faith stories. I grew up in the church. I have never been addicted to drugs or alcohol. I have been faithful to Pam. I thought I didn’t have a faith story.


But I was wrong. I have a faith story. You have a faith story. Everyone has a faith story. And those stories are important to tell. None are more important than others, and no two are exactly alike.


In the scripture we read today from the 5th chapter of  2 Corinthians we find Paul continuing where we left off last week. In the scripture today, however, he is talking about faith stories and how important they are.


“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others…” (2 Corinthians 5:11)


How do we as humans persuade others? We tell them our stories.


We have an essential oil diffuser in our bedroom that we use every night. Why? Because we had several people tell us their stories with essential oils. Their stories persuaded us so much that we bought a diffuser and some oils and tried it out.


(By the way, I am like the Christian comedian Tim Hawkins when it comes to essential oils. He says that his favorite essential oil is whatever kind they use a Chik-fil-a.)


When I go to buy something I look it up in Consumer Reports or on the Internet and read what people say about the product. I want to hear reviews, I want to hear their stories. Do they regret buying the product? Has it worked as advertised? How durable is it?


I want to hear their stories, and based on what they say, I make a decision to either purchase or pass on a particular item.


At the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians the new Christian movement was growing. It was growing because people were telling their faith stories. Paul himself had an incredible faith story as he went from someone so against the people of “The Way” that he persecuted them and even tacitly approved of killing them, to one of the great leaders of the church, suffering greatly along the way for this faith.


So Paul knew the importance of stories, especially the story of Jesus.


Each one of us as followers of Jesus need to be able to tell the story of Jesus. And we need to be able to tell the story of how we became a follower of Jesus.


One of the books recommended for one of the teams for the Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) process we are going through is titled, Get Their Name: Grow Your Church By Building New Relationships. In one of the chapters the authors talk about the importance of knowing your “elevator speech.”


Now if you’re not familiar with that term it actually comes from the business world. If someone in the business world asks you who you are and what you do, you should be able to answer them in the time it takes to take an elevator from one floor to another. It’s about a two minute time period. Professionals say that you need to develop and practice your “elevator speech” so that when someone asks you who your are and/or what you do, you can tell them accurately and concisely.


The authors of the book say that we as Christians should have an “elevator speech” to be able to tell people why we are a Christian and why we attend the church that we do.


Now a part of me wants my “elevator speech” to be something like, “After you die you get on an elevator. Do you know if you’re going up or are you going down?”


But that wouldn’t be very effective, now would it? What I call “Jesus as fire insurance” doesn’t communicate the most important thing, and that is love. After all, God is love.


But if within the span of two minutes I can tell someone the difference Jesus makes in my life and why an integral part of my faith life is to worship at Jacksonville First United Methodist Church, then I will come a lot closer to fulfilling the great commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.


I’m going to put a two minute timer up and see if I can do my elevator speech. It might go something like this:


Hi, I’m Doug Wintermute. I’m a pastor at Jacksonville First United Methodist Church but I didn’t always want to be a pastor. As a matter of fact, I ran away from it for about 20 years. I even tried to be an atheist once after I got mad at God when one of my childhood friends committed suicide in his early 20s. But I wasn’t very good at being an athiest and I finally realized that I could be angry with God and still believe in God.


God was patient with me though and after some bad experiences at one church  in particular (not from the pastor, but from the congregation members) we started going to church again. My wife got me to listening to Contemporary Christian music. I bought a study Bible and started attending a lunch time Bible study. I got involved with the music program at the church and helped start a contemporary service. I went on a Walk to Emmaus which really changed my life. God really got ahold of me. I became a lay speaker and kept feeling the call to become a pastor. I visited with several pastors and then began the exploration process to confirm my call.


But most of all I changed. I went from being a part-time Christian to a full-time one. And it made all the difference in every area of my life.


Then 20 years after graduating from college I enrolled in seminary and became a student pastor. I’ve been a pastor now for 14 years and absolutely love my job and the church I serve. Come see us on Sunday and I’ll meet you at the church. It’s on the loop in Jacksonville. You can’t miss it. Be there by 9 and I’ll treat you to donuts and coffee.


Okay, see? Not very long, hits the important parts, and ends with an invitation. My elevator speech.


What’s your story? How is your life different since you came to know Jesus Christ as your savior? Or is it different?


In the scriptures we read today Paul writes to the followers in Corinth, “We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart.” (2 Corinthians 5:12)


What can people boast about you? Would they boast of your “outward appearance,” the worldly ways that you live? Or would they boast of your “heart,” your faith and devotion to your savior? What is your story? What story does your life and the way you live it tell others?


One more point: make sure your story points to Jesus, not yourself. In the Facebook world it’s easy to make it all about you. And many people do just that. But as a follower of Christ it should be about Jesus, not about us.


Paul even says this in the last verse of today’s scripture. “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)


We are not to live for ourselves, but for Jesus. Jesus Christ, being fully human and fully God, died so that our sins may be forgiven. That’s how much he loves you.


So my challenge to you this week is to make sure you have your “elevator story” ready to tell. Sit down and write it our or just practice it in front of the mirror. And remember that it’s not too late to add to your story. Draw closer to God and he will draw closer to you. Read the Bible. Attend one of the Bible studies we will be starting this fall. Pray more. Volunteer. Tithe. You get the idea.


And when the opportunity comes for you to give your elevator speech, I hope you are going up, not down.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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