What's Your 180 Story?

Dom shared a distressing statistic in a message this past Sunday called "The Courage to Go":

Over 60% of churchgoers do not share their faith on a regular basis (Christianity Today, 2012).

Among the many reasons for this, whether it be discomfort or lack of courage, one of the main reasons may be that we are not sharing our 180 stories, that is the stories of how we have sensed Jesus' invitation to turn from our old ways of life and become disciples.

Due to the church culture that many of us grew up in, myself included, we’ve learned to point to a time or a moment in our lives when we made a decision to follow Jesus. This has happened in part due to a shift which has promoted the making of “Christians” rather than “disciples.” Maybe you remember it as you prayed a prayer or raised a hand or answered an altar call and in a sense “became a Christian.”

It’s important to be able to look back on a particularly powerful movement of God in our lives. But the thing is that becoming a disciple – that is, developing the habits of listening and responding to the call of Jesus in our lives daily – isn’t something that happens in an instant.

When it comes down to it, telling a story where the grand climax is that we raised our hand or prayed a prayer is incomplete. As people who are called disciples, we ought to have a lot more to say about the dynamic work of God in our lives.

Grappling with this idea a few years ago was an important time for me as a Christian. As someone who grew up in a Christian home, I actually didn’t talk or think much about the work of God in my life. It didn’t seem that I had any exciting moments to share about my life or how I was growing.

It wasn’t until I was encouraged to write out some parts of the stories in my life with special attention to particular questions that I realized that I had a lot more to share about how God had been at work in me with the intention to make me more of a disciple.

It was a really amazing experience to examine my life and trace God’s hand at work through meeting particular people, having hard conversations, being hurt by the church in certain ways, and finding special friendships at other times.

In a world which desperately needs to hear transformation stories, 180 stories, we need to be able to rehearse our stories clearly and dynamically. And - as I learned - as you take time to write out and reflect on your own story, I think you’ll be surprised to see how God’s work in your life is not only contained in specific, dramatic moments. In fact, I am a strong believer that there are ways in which God works in your life that you are only able to see if you take the time to look back carefully.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself and areas you can reflect on as you think on the my180 stories that God is working in you:

· Write about the earliest memories of your faith journey. Who or what shaped your view of God? In what ways is your view of God different now?

· Who have been important spiritual role models in your life? How have they impacted you for better or for worse? What were your most significant learnings?

· What passages of Scripture or what authors have been important for you – both in your early life and lately? How has God used these particular writings to grow your faith?

· Discuss ways in which the church has been helpful or harmful for your journey - describe any crises or experiences.

· What spiritual practices shape your life? How have these practices changed throughout the years? How have they grown your intimacy with God?

Many of the Christians who have gone before us have left great legacies in their stories - check out a guy we call St. Augustine, who pioneered the idea of writing careful self-reflections in an amazing book called The Confessions, or look at Surprised by Joy, in which beloved Christian author C.S. Lewis traces his narratives of faith. A more contemporary writer named Philip Yancey has also written out some of his story in Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church.

Such stories point to the diverse and beautiful ways in which God uses people, places, Scripture, emotions, and the church itself, to make us into disciples who will go.

Everyone can have “my180” stories to share and it’s well worth the time to write them out.

By: Bethany Mortelliti, Communications Assistant at the180