Today our guest from Pastors Weekly is Ken Smith, continuing with joy and storytelling. Ken is a business man and long time friend. Last time he talked about 5 stories that he has been using in discipleship groups. He asks questions that tie into principles that are in The Life Model, and storytelling as part of a maturity step! This week the emphasis is on applying what we learn in our work week.
Joy Stories–Joy needs to be the beginning of everything we do.
In our groups we ask people what they are thankful for and if they would share a story of what has been good that week, something that they would want to repeat.
We encourage them in what they shared but then with each of these stories we are looking for people to go out into the week and use what they have learned with other people.
Two stories come out of joy stories, the story of what I am thankful for and the story of how I have been a blessing to others.
One way to share your joy story is to give thanks to God in front of other people and see what kind of response you get.
It is good to remember that we cannot control people’s responses. But we still have the responsibility to speak.
A second way to share is to give a blessing or encouragement to the people of that place you go into. Just as we when we enter into relationship with God we need to give thanks, as we enter into relationship with other people we need to give a blessing or encouragement to them.
In the group we ask, “How have I/we used an encouraging word or a blessing or peace on what others are doing? And what kind of response did we get? In doing that week after week, telling the stories and being mindful that that is how Jesus wants you to live your life, real discipleship starts happening. Christianity becomes a moment by moment thing. You apply it to your life.
Shalom Stories — These are the difficult moments when God restored peace to your life.
Maybe you forgot that God was with you and you became discouraged and started acting out in a certain way. But, there was that point where you remembered that God is with you and it made all the difference.
It helped you put things back in perspective. God is bigger than the circumstance that you are in and He is with you. His presence and the awareness of His presence impacts your life in a powerful way.
Sharing these stories can be a very rich time to learn how to share the difficult things.
Practicing telling these stories helps people find balance—to help those that want to talk about everything to focus on one thing and help others learn to take steps in identifying the stresses in their lives and think about God being with them in the midst of that.
Then we go out…
To prepare, I like to use Psalm 23:4 which talks about “yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for the Lord is with me.”
You could also use a passage like 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
As you see people in distress use that as an opportunity to connect them to God and let them know that God is with them in that circumstance. You want to build into your life that habit of turning to Him in distress.
In your own moments of trying to restore shalom/peace, that sense that everything is in the right place and God is in the right perspective in your life…that is a lot of what other people are looking for—someone to understand them in their distress.
Helping Stories — moments in our lives when we need help and acknowledge that we can’t do everything.
As we age we can do more and more ourselves, but God always has more that needs other people to work together to do. You start to get that sense of there being bigger and bigger tasks when you realize that you are not just an individual but part of a community.
Sharing the stories of what you need and how can the group help? Maybe they can’t, maybe they just pray for you but we also want to learn how to help other people in need. It is the strong helping the weak, but acknowledging your need is part of the step in maturity.
For helping stories look at Philippians 4:6 where it says “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” There needs to be thanksgiving that goes along with the request; but make your needs known! Jesus said we don’t have because we don’t ask.
But on the other side, have you gone out and looked for other people who have needs and have you helped? When you see people in the community, do you offer help?
We look for stories of how people have reached out and made connections and what God did in those circumstances. We want to share stories about those people who are responsive when we offer help to others, when we love our neighbor as Jesus did.
Learning stories — moments when you tell others what you are learning and practicing.
Storytelling is one way to practice sharing what you are learning. Storytelling helps move learning into more permanent memory. So it becomes a lesson you won’t have to learn again.
So group time is time to remember what you learned last week, what you learned from the passage you looked at, and what God impressed on you that you needed to obey. As you obeyed did you see a difference, did you see any impact? That is sharing what you have received and shared with others.
Matt. 5:19 talks about those who are great in the Kingdom…”they are those who practice My commands and teach others to practice them.” Christianity needs to be something that we do, not only something that we hear. We also need to encourage others to hear from God and practice what they hear.
The last story is the stories of God and His People.
In discipleship groups we work through different scripture passages of 1 – 10 verses so we can read them, paraphrase them and put them into our own words to share with one another in the group; and then we start to look at meaning. We clarify what do we not understand and talk about it but then focus on what it is that God is really asking us to do as a result of that passage so that we can make personal application.
Psalm 119:11 says “I have hidden Your word in my heart.” As you share a story and learn to be able to tell it, you will then have opportunities in the week to share that story with someone else.
There are all kinds of ways to do that. Some are real simple such as saying, “I am really encouraged about what God is teaching me.” Then wait for those who ask, “What is that?” And then share with them.
Questions for Discovery Groups:
· What’s been the best part of your week?”
· What’s been the hardest part of the week?
· What needs do you have that we can help meet?
· How did you apply what you learned last week?
· How did you share what you learned last week?
· What is important for us to know as we look at the new Scripture passage?
Be mindful of three things:
1. Stay focused on the story teller and don’t change focus to yourself, “that reminds me of….”
2. Validate what they said. If you stick to how big the feeling or how important the experience was that they just shared you can be pretty safe because you are not agreeing or disagreeing with what they felt but are validating. This is especially important with the “Return To Joy” stories, the distressing stories that often show up.
3. Make sure to offer comfort. After the validating so that they know that they are understood, offer comfort that God is bigger than their story and that He is with them. There is hope in that.
Action step: Practice telling 2-3 of these stories this week.
We would love to hear how it goes!
Blessings, Chris and Carol
Carol Brown, Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive www.fromgodsheart.com
Chris Coursey, MA Theology — Author, Speaker and Thrive Trainer, www.thrivingtoday.com