Every every time someone asks you, “How was Urbana?” it’s an opportunity to share not only about your conference experiences but also about the broader story of God you’re living in.
One way to do that is through the Big Story, a tool that explains the larger story in four easy-to-remember chapters: “Designed for Good,” “Damaged by Evil,” “Restored for Better,” and “Sent Together to Heal.” By placing your Urbana experience in the context of the Big Story, you can help your friends and family get to know more about what Jesus came to do and invite them to be part of the kingdom of God.
Here are a few tips on how to talk about your Urbana experience using the Big Story. You can also draw the diagrams as you share, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Start the conversation
After someone asks you about Urbana, you could start with an opening question that may give you permission to share the Big Story—maybe something like, “Would you like to know the deeper reason why I went?”
Designed for Good
Then you could say, “In the Christian worldview, God designed a world where everything was designed for good.” Give an example from the conference by completing this statement: “At Urbana 15, I saw God’s goodness through…”
Damaged by Evil
Next, explain what went wrong and, again, give an example from Urbana: “But instead, we pushed against God’s design, and bent everything to our own purposes. That damaged everything: ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us. This ultimately damaged our relationship with God. At Urbana, I saw a world damaged by…” You could also ask if they’ve experienced this damage.
Restored for Better
Then explain God’s solution, finishing with an example from Urbana. “But God loved the world too much to leave it this way. He came as Jesus. And through his death and resurrection, all of the power and penalty of this junk—in us and around us—dies with him so that a new life and new world are possible. We can live with God, and he in us. We are forgiven and restored. I saw Jesus restoring me and others at Urbana 15 by . . .” You could share here how you became a follower of Jesus.
Sent Together to Heal
Then add the last part, again adding in your experiences at Urbana: “Jesus asked us to be part of what he’s still doing in the world. At this conference, I saw Jesus healing through… And I plan on being part of what Jesus is doing by…”
Ask for a response
Every good story begs for a response, whether clapping or crying. So now you can say, “The restoration that I saw at Urbana wouldn’t have happened without Jesus. Do you want to learn more about this restoration?”
If they say yes, continue with: “You might wonder why I can’t jump from knowing our world is suffering to being the cure. Why do we need Jesus? We can’t move forward unless the damage we’ve done is repaired. We need Jesus to heal and forgive us. Plus, the world’s problems are infinite, and we’d get overwhelmed taking care of them on our own. We need Jesus’ resources so that we can become the kind of good we want to see. We need Jesus to live in us and lead us.”
Then you could ask: “In which world would you put yourself? In the first one, where everything is fine? In the second, where you’re overwhelmed by evil in the world? In the third, where you’ve started some relationship with Jesus but aren’t doing anything about it? Or in the fourth, where you’re part of God’s vision but don’t really know why Jesus has to be part of it?”
From here, be honest about what you know and, perhaps more importantly, about what you don’t know. Ask the Spirit to lead you. And if the person is open, ask them if they’d like to be part of this new vision of life. To do so, they’ll need to change their minds about the way they’re living and let Jesus lead them. But that’s exactly what can happen when we invite others to be part of the Big Story.
Note: Much of this was written for InterVarsity’s Global Urban Trek debrief and has been reproduced here. For more resources on the Big Story, check out the book True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In by James Choung (InterVarsity Press). The Big Story App (with an embedded tutorial) is also available for iPhones and Android devices.