Joe Maschhoff leads The Navigators 20s ministry that works with young adults in more than 20 metropolitan areas around the country. Although he has never viewed himself as an author, Joe developed Telling His Story by Telling Yours because he saw a need for practical and useable tools that people—especially those in their 20s—could use to share the Gospel.
Disciple!: How did the idea for this booklet come about?
Joe Machhoff: I’ve been working with young adults for some time and I wasn’t aware of tools anywhere designed for those in their 20s. There was a need for tools that were useful, practical, and reproducible. We needed something that we could share with a 25-year old that he or she could take—right away—and share with someone else. It’s not that the principles were really new; we just needed a way to deliver relevant content in a nimble, easy-to-pass-on format.
Also, it seemed that most instruction about sharing your faith — telling your story — made people feel like they were delivering a rehearsed monologue in front of a group. That just doesn’t match the reality most of us experience when we share our stories with others. We need to help people tell their stories in a conversational way rather than a way that feels like a program.
D!: In the booklet you talk about needing the ability to articulate the facts and “objective reality” of the Gospel. Why is that important?
Joe: Telling our story isn’t just about us. There are certain facts about the Gospel—such as who Jesus is and what He did on the cross—that are true regardless of my personal story. It’s essential to get those facts across. But the story is important as well. People can argue with the facts. They really can’t argue with your experience. That’s very powerful.
D!: Why do you think so many believers are hesitant to tell their stories?
Joe: Sometimes I’m hesitant, too. I think the biggest reason is fear. We’re afraid we’ll be rejected. We’re afraid we’ll say the wrong thing. Don’t forget that fear is a powerful tool of the enemy. He’ll use any form of fear to keep us quiet. Beyond that, there is also a strange “evangelical guilt.” Giving your testimony has been built up to be this almost unattainable achievement. In fact, it’s actually easy. You simply tell your story — or even part of your story.
D!: In your experience, what are the biggest missteps people make when trying to tell their stories?
Joe: The first (and biggest) is that they don’t try. Beyond that, I think a lot of people feel that they have to communicate everything about the Gospel at once. That’s just not the case. Often you only have time to share part of your story. Then maybe at another time, you come back and share another part. People don’t want to hear a lecture. They want conversation. We have to learn to clearly articulate parts of our story. If the opportunity is there to share more, that’s great, but most of the time what we share is only a partial disclosure of the truth. That’s just the way people converse. Another big issue is that often we don’t see ourselves as image-bearers of Christ and as partners God has chosen and placed where we are so that we can relate our stories.
D!: What kind of reaction have you gotten as you’ve shared these practical steps with young adults?
Joe: As I’ve worked through this material with a number of young adults, there has been a lot of genuine enthusiasm. People start to realize that they can do this! They develop a sense that God can actually use them to be part of bringing others into relationship with Him.
For more information on the 20s ministry, visit nav20s.org