Telling a story of an encounter with the Spirit is a fundamental act of church fellowship.
Mainline church people are not used to talking about their Spiritual experiences. They first need to be taught what to look for. Doing so is the thrust of my books Your Encounters with the Holy Spirit: Name and Share Them, Seek More (2014) and How to Spot the Spirit’s Work in Your Life: Seek His Gifts and Fruit (2016).
Of the GROWTH practices I offer, the fourth is the challenge to give Witness to your experiences. For most of us mainliners that is a stretch. When doing so, your witness will be more compelling using this outline for telling your STORY.
Your Spirit Encounter
What Triggers were working?
Was it Organized or spontaneous?
What Relationships were strengthened?
What was Your Spiritual fruit?
Triggers are situations you associate with God’s love working and Christ’s grace freeing people. A sanctuary is loaded with trigger symbols. Encountering someone in need can trigger a believer’s compassion to respond.
Begin your story with the phrase, “Let me tell you about my experience. . .” For example, “Let me tell you about my experience with the Spirit at our last Easter service. It was in the sanctuary, with all the triggers of symbols I grew up with. The main triggers were the Easter hymns I know so well, and hearing the pivotal story of Jesus’ resurrection. I was moved with a feeling of excitement”. Who isn’t moved by a joyous Easter service or singing Silent Night at a Christmas Eve Service? That’s the Spirit at work through various triggers.
Let me tell you the story of the spiritual growth that happened with my daughter Angela and her husband Paul. A trigger was the way we celebrated Easter 2012 in a gloomy hospital conference room with the traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal provided by a Bob Evans Restaurant. There was a general pall over the room associated with one-year old Lydia sitting in a highchair. Lydia had just been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Most children that get leukemia have acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). The survival rate now for ALL is 50%. For AML the survival rate is only 10%. So that Easter dinner at the hospital was gloomy with our assumption that Lydia would soon die. But she did turn out to be the one survivor in ten who went home. She is now a charming 2nd-grader.
Angela spent almost five months staying 24/7 in Lydia’s hospital room. Days got long. A group averaging about seven moms with very sick children would take time off to chat in the lobby and take walks together. Angela grew close to those moms as they shared their feelings and life stories. In the process she did variations of the six GROWTH practices: plenty of praying and receiving Gods Word; continual submission to events beyond her control, many lessons on trusting God in this unwelcome new adventure and continued humility over how little she could contribute.
Now I am going to tell her story through the STORY grid I promote.
S is for the sightings of God. Most of Angela’s sightings were of the Spirit’s work in and among the moms. Angela and Paul had a sighting of God the Father working his providence with Lydia getting a new experimental medication.
T is for triggers. A necessary trigger was spending five months living in the hospital. The main trigger was conversations with seven other moms over many months together.
O asks whether the events were organized or spontaneous. When it is organized, try doing more of these events and experiences. But who would recommend living in a hospital for five months with a dying child?
R is for the relationships, or the fellowship that was built up. There were deep personal relationships with seven moms and especially with an Amish mom.
Y is for your experiences of the Spirit. Angela had experienced all nine of the fruit described in Gal 5:22.