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Three Story Living

Published on March 16, 2023

This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of the FCA Donor Publication. The FCA publication is a gift from our FCA staff to all donors giving $50 or more annually. For more information about giving, visit here.

This past Saturday was my son Silas’ first soccer game—ever! The only problem: Their practice had been rained out, and so most of the kids were walking onto the field with zero experience.

With curiosity, I kept wondering: How is Coach Mike going to disciple these fifteen clueless kids into a decent resemblance of a soccer team in just a few minutes?

As we watched Coach Mike’s brilliance unfold, I was reminded how Jesus changed the whole world with twelve ordinary men (Acts 4:13). And now, Jesus invites us to continue the work. You don’t have to be an “expert” to reach your friends for Christ, and it isn’t a job—it’s a calling!

Our personal ministry to others starts with a willingness to become like a child, walk out on the field and give it a try. In fact, some of the best evangelists and disciple-makers I know view their investment just like Coach Mike.

I’ve begun to understand that the art of inviting others to follow Jesus is really about sharing good stories. Reaching my friends for Christ involves three overlapping stories: God’s Story, my story, and their story—the story of my friend who doesn’t yet know Jesus.

The key is to look for natural and authentic ways to connect these stories through abiding, listening and inviting.

Abiding Deeply in God’s Story
Jesus was quite serious when he said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” When my son and his ten new teammates took the field, they didn’t stand a chance apart from their coach. I watched as these typically squirrely boys listened with great intentionality and responded to the coach’s voice. The boys knew they needed to rely on the in-the-moment expertise of their shepherd. In the same way, our efforts to reach the lost must start—not with our own creativity or giftedness, but—with a sincere commitment to listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27). Scripture calls this abiding and gives us a clear picture of what abiding looks like in John 15.

Listening to Their Story
Coach Mike asked these little rookies to show up thirty minutes early so they could go over a few fundamentals before the game. Imagine my surprise when he invested almost the entire time getting to know his players.

“Shouldn’t they be learning how to dribble or kick?” I asked my wife.

Then it hit me. He was building rapport. I’m learning that the most effective relational evangelists adopt this same listening posture first. Jesus was gifted at asking the right questions at the right time. Listening is often more powerful than telling. To meet our current culture, we must adopt this ministry philosophy: People listen to people who listen. How might our friends’ interest in Christianity change if Christians learned to listen to their story before we jump to sharing our own?

Inviting Their Story to Connect with God’s Story
Throughout the game, coach Mike invited players to try different positions. In the same way, people come to Jesus from different positions, and for vastly different reasons. The most effective disciple-makers I know are the ones who naturally identify which piece of Christ's character their friend might be seeking.

For some, God fulfills the need for a father they never had. For others, it could be a desire for belonging or purpose. For still others, the promise of eternity resonates most.

1 Peter 3:15 reminds us to “always be prepared to give an answer... for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Remember: My story of hope is important, but the invitation to my friend is always about what Christ is doing in their story, and their story is unique!

In the end, the boys lost their first game, but it didn’t steal their joy. They’ve now had a taste of what’s to come. In the same way, I pray the concepts above will inspire you to be good news while telling stories of the Good News.

Prayer: Jesus; help me to love, listen, and invite my friends to follow you. Amen.

About the Author:
JakeJake Bland is the 10th President and CEO of Youth For Christ USA, a pillar of missional youth ministry since 1944, when the Rev. Billy Graham served as YFC’s first full-time staff member. Today, Youth For Christ reaches young people everywhere, including in over 100 nations and through 140 local chapters across America, with a special focus on engaging 11-19 year olds who do not know Christ. YFC intentionally pursues young people who often feel overlooked, building relationships, and uncovering God's story of hope at pivotal moments in their lives. Jake’s journey with YFC began as a high school student, then as a volunteer and intern. Prior to joining the YFC staff, he taught in the Interactive Media Department at Bradley University and co-founded two media production companies. He holds a master’s degree in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jake and his wife, Alison, live in the Denver area. As a volunteer, Jake serves as an elder in their church, and as the board chairman for Presence Point—a non-profit organization that helps leaders live into their calling. Jake and Ali have two children: Silas David (7) and Ivy Rehn (5). Their family loves traveling, music, hiking, spending time with friends, and enjoying God’s creation in Colorado.