So let me just take a moment and I’ll share my story using this outline, okay? You’ve probably heard parts of it here and there but if I was sitting down and we had a cup of coffee and I said, “Hey! Where did you grow up?” And you told me where you grew up. “And so what was it like growing up?” And you told me a little bit about your family and this and that.
And then just normal or casually you might say, “Well, Chip, tell me a little bit about your life.” Externally what I’d say is: Well I grew up in a home, parents were school teachers and we were, in general, kind of, pretty moral. My mom was an amazing person. A guidance counselor. My dad, you know, ex-Marine, Guam, Iwo Jima, a science teacher. He was a great athlete so I was really, you know, pushed and admired and wanted to be a good athlete.
And my dad was one of those guys that I never heard him say, ‘I love you’ until late in his life. I never, he wasn’t a hugger. But I knew he loved me and the way he loved me was, in that generation is he would help you become successful. If you did really well that’s the way you got loved.
“And the way you’re successful is this, it’s real easy, you know? You get up earlier than everybody else, you set very clear goals, you develop a strategy to get there, and when they’re sleeping you work. And when they go to bed, you keep working. And I’ll tell you what, son, you’ll be successful and when you’re successful, you’ll be happy.”
And so I became a workaholic by the time I was thirteen, I had six or seven yards, three paper routes at one time. I decided, “I’m going to date a pretty cheerleader, I’m going to get a basketball scholarship, I’m going to graduate in the top of my class, I’m going to be in this club, and be all-league in this and that.”
And I went like an absolute wild man after that. And was really lonely inside because my dad began to drink more and more and more as I got older. And I just had a big wound I didn’t know about. But that’s what my life was like.
So the realization of my need came the night that I graduated from high school. A gal named Jackie turned to me and said, “You must be very happy tonight.”
I remember turning and saying, “Well, why do you say that?” And because we talked she goes, “Well, you know, you did well in school, you date that cute, little cheerleader, you got a scholarship.” And she named a few things.
And I didn’t realize, see, every single person pursues something or someone that you believe is going to make you happy. Everyone behaves in a way that makes sense to them. Even if you don’t articulate it, even if you don’t think it through your behavior, your energy, your time, your money – it all, I mean, if you could put it all together, all of us go towards something that makes sense.
I didn’t realize the mantra was, “If you work hard and are successful, you’ll be happy.” And when she said that it was like a light came on. And I didn’t feel happy, I felt empty. Because I had already decided the next set of goals. I’ve already decided I’m going to major in political science, I’ll be a lawyer, I’ll be very rich, I’m going to marry a beautiful girl, I will have a luxury car, a station wagon, an Irish Setter, three beautiful kids. By age thirty-five I’ll be a leader in the community. I mean…
And that night I realized I had fifteen years and I do the next set of goals and my life will be maybe ten times more empty than it is right now.
So I drove home and looked at the stars and I had given up on organized religion because all the Christians I met were phony. And it wasn’t a church that taught God’s Word. And I was disillusioned with God, and disillusioned with people, but I looked at the stars and said, “If there is a God, reveal yourself to me.”
This is my actual prayer. It’s not like I’m cussing in church but this was my prayer (my dad was a science teacher):
“There must be some designer behind all this design of all these stars. And I’ve heard about God but I don’t know if you exist. But if you exist, and if you’re big enough to reveal yourself to me, in a way that I can understand, and you actually created me, I will do whatever you want. If you don’t exist or if you’re not big enough to reveal yourself, in a way that makes sense, I’m going to live like hell and I’m going to die young and I’m going to squeeze as much fun… I’m tired of just being a moral person out of some code that doesn’t make any sense.”
Within a week, I was told by the guy I was going to start my summer job with that the job was delayed a week. We were going to paint a house. Next day, the football coach said, “I’d like to send you to this camp. I’ll pay your way. It’s called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, there are six hundred of the best high school basketball players from Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.”
Sports sounded good, someone’s going to pay your way, I went, and then it was like, “What have I done?” This is how I met Christ. What caused me to consider a solution was I was desperately lonely, insecure, and my performance orientation of “no matter what you do doesn’t measure up,” and I’m starting to learn success doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.
I land and they, there’s six hundred guys and they gave me a Bible, it said, “Good News for Modern Man,” and I’d never read the Bible before. And then they gave me a t-shirt with a cross on it. And I heard, in the first twenty minutes, people say Jesus’ name, like, out loud like He was a real person. And I thought, “I have been dropped into the land of Jesus Freaks. What have I done?”
It’s 1972, they’re going to indoctrinate me, these are the weird people, I’ve read about these people, they’re weird, I want to play basketball but this is nuts. For the first two days I didn’t open my Bible, I refused to do any of the religious stuff they did.
But every morning, after some workouts, a guy would read a paragraph from the Bible and explain it, and it actually made sense, in words you could understand.
The biggest thing was I got exposure to God’s Word, I saw people - in my world, Christians were weak, anti-intellectual, people that need a crutch, and mostly women. I never saw any masculine, strong person that I would ever, ever want to be like and had the word Christian or Jesus in the same sentence - and now I’m working out with guys that are pro athletes, and college athletes, and high school athletes from all over. And I respected them. I heard Tom Landry share his testimony.
But the big moment for me was I remember after about four days and realizing, because I thought they were faking it, this must be a big act, for two or three days. And no one can be this kind and loving.
And I remember two guys walking off a grass workout field, we’d been working out all day and I can still remember the green shorts, he was a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons and he was walking with the fullback from Illinois. And I was this skinny maybe a hundred and thirty-five, hundred and thirty-eight pounds just skinny, little white kid who was a basketball jones trying to do what I wanted to do.
And I’m about ten feet behind them, I can hear parts of the conversation. And this wide receiver, big guy, put his hand on the shoulder and I heard a conversation between a grown man and a grown man that expressed deep, intimate love for one another that was masculine. And I’d never seen it before in my life.
I didn’t know the verse that said that I would know that Jesus came from God because Christians loved one another.
Later on, that fullback would sing the Lord’s Prayer the very last night. And I didn’t even know what was happening. I had never opened anything but after watching that I finally gave in and so I decided on one of the mornings, every morning you were to read your Bible for, like, ten minutes and so I opened the Bible for the very first time.
And you all will get a kick out of this knowing me now. These are the first words I ever read, good news. “I urge you, therefore, my dear friends, in view of God’s wonderful kindness and grace to you that you should offer your body as a living sacrifice to Him. This is what God really wants from you. Don’t be conformed or molded any longer to the ways of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that your life and how you really live would demonstrate what God’s will looks like – that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.
“And through the grace given to me I say to every one of you: Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think but to think as to have sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Does that sound familiar? It’s the first time I ever read the Bible and it was like a video camera went on and I could see me acting tough in the locker room and cussing and then I could see me acting like the all-American boy with teachers and acting sweet with girls and it was like this video tape of this phony person that I hated, always trying to figure out what to give different groups, seeing this chameleon socially and this manipulator who was desperately insecure and longing for love and for the first time ever someone put their finger on it.
And he sang the Lord’s Prayer that night and when he got done singing the Lord’s Prayer because it was the same guy I heard talking to that wide receiver a guy got up and drew a picture with some chalk and he said that God loved me and after he told me that God loved me he said he proved it by sending Jesus, His Son.
And after he drew this picture of Jesus, His Son, somehow he made this picture of a tomb and with the lighting it opened up and he talked about that this Jesus rose from the dead and that He would offer me peace and life and forgiveness and that He was standing at the door and knocking at my heart, Revelation 3:20.
And if I would open the door of my life and my heart Jesus would actually come into my life in the person of the Holy Spirit, forgive me forever, seal me with His Spirit, give new direction and purpose to my life, and make me heaven bound.
And I prayed a prayer but I wasn’t theologically very smart or sound but I said, “God, I don’t get it all but here’s what I know. Whatever it means for you to come into my life, forgive me of my sin, that’s what I want more than anything else. So will you come in?”
And that’s what happened in my life. The change that happened was I went home and I took this little Bible they gave me and I read through the New Testament. And there was just something that happened that I can’t explain externally. And in about ten days to two weeks my tongue, something happened. Because I cussed worse than a sailor.
That was just one of the external things. I didn’t cuss anymore. Where did that go? And then I’ll never forget, my desires changed externally.
And I had just turned eighteen and the laws had just changed so you could go hang out in bars and you’re eighteen years old and, you know, I’ve read the Bible now, like, for five days. And so the guys, “C’mon, guys, let’s go.” And so we hit some very sleazy bar.
And I remember getting up and going, “Guys, man, I’m going to, I’m going to cut. I gotta chill. I gotta get out of here.” “Man, come on, have another!” I said, “I don’t understand it. I just…”
And I remember walking out that door and getting in my little green Volkswagen and driving away and thinking, “I have no idea what’s going on but I don’t want to be near it.”
God began to … He changed me from the inside out.
Now, internally, you talk about continued struggles. I had plenty of them but I had peace, I had a sense of forgiveness, and probably the greatest gift for me was I didn’t have to pretend. Someone loved me and forgave me. I could be Chip, the same Chip with a girl. The same Chip with my family. The same Chip in the locker room.
It was freedom. I didn’t know the verse that you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free. All I knew was it was just like the entire weight of the world was off my shoulders. Now, I’d love to say that from that moment on I’ve never felt like I had to perform to earn the favor or please people.
In fact, the good part about beginning to read the Bible was this transformational change, the bad part was if you would have asked me two weeks before I trusted Christ, “Are you a good person?” Ninety-ninth percentile! I’ve never killed anyone, right? I live in America, I vaguely believe there must be a God.
And then I started to read the Scriptures and I realized how sinful, how selfish, how manipulative, how lustful. I began to realize that all my sin had to do with stuff inside my head and it was despicable in God’s eyes. But that He loved me and that He forgave me.
That’s my story. Now I can tell that in about three minutes or I can tell it in about eleven like I just did. And you know what? It’s not real dramatic. But it’s mine. And I’m a trophy of God’s grace and I’ve shared that story thousands of times in the last thirty years. And I’ve seen scores of people who, for some reason, made a connection with my story and realized my little story was a bridge between this ocean of God’s love, the person of Christ, and their need. What would happen if each one of us would say, “Lord, I commit thirty, or forty-five minutes, or an hour and I’m going to outline my story, at least, or I’m going to write it out and I’m going to be prepared.
What if you wrote yours out and then it was ready, and then what you’ll find is the Spirit of God… people will ask you questions that will lead to your story and, and you know what? It’s not preachy. It’s just your story.
Let me just give you some very specific tips. Number one: Develop a theme – the central issue in your life that shows the contrast in your spiritual outlook before Christ and then after.
My theme, vey interestingly, is that whole thing about success equals happiness. Now, when I’m playing hoop and sitting like I did yesterday, and talk with someone, I use the basketball illustrations.
When I’m sitting with an executive and we’re kicking stuff around I talk about my workaholism, in my work. Both of those are my story but the theme is the same.
Second, outline, keep it clear and simple. The power is in what God has done.
Third, end with a question or statement that requires a response. You know, the apostle Paul said, “King Agrippa, you believe in the prophets, don’t you?” I’ll often share, when I get done with my story, “So what do you think? Have you ever investigated the Bible?”
I’m often way more committed to someone saying, “You know what? I’d read the book of John with you. Want to kick that around?” than I am them, “I’ve never heard anything about God and I’m going to pray a prayer.” You just need to be discerning. But just ask them, “Would you like to explore? That’s my story. Would you like to explore God’s story for you?”
Fourth, Scripture, think of one verse that opened your eyes and share how it impacted you. Revelation 3:20 for me was just like, “You’re,” I mean, forgive this but, “you’re kidding me! God lives inside of you? He will come in?
Length: Be brief and to the point. You could always share more but write it out where you can share it briefly. Attitude: Share, don’t preach. Okay? Just, it’s your heart. You don’t have to convince, you know? It’s not your job. Just, “This is what God did in me, this is where I was, this is how I met Him, here’s what’s changed.”
Sensitivity: Focus on the other person and share aspects of your life that relate to their interest and needs. As you get better, and share it more and more, you’ll just find that there’s a lot to your story, isn’t there?
And you can pull from this part of your story, or that part of your story, but just be sensitive. And share the parts of your story that connect with what’s going on in their life.
And then finally, focus, make Jesus the star of your story. I’ve, at times, heard a story of a testimony and ninety percent of it is, “This is my life before,” and it’s kind of like, you know, in the name of sharing Christ you hear all the stuff that you’re really not sure you want to hear that much.
And then pretty soon the person is the star of the story. The star of your story is the Son of God. The star of your story is His love and forgiveness. The star of your story is that whether you came out of a great environment, or a very difficult environment, He’s the Savior of the world, and He’s your friend, and He is God.
And He has done that for you and He longs to do that for the person you’re talking to.
And so let me encourage you, would you be willing, this week, to block off forty-five minutes and write your story? And then would you be willing just to say, “I’ve got it, Lord. If You’ll open the door I will naturally, lovingly, share my story with the person as You lead me.”