Gospel Shepherding is centered on listening to the person’s story.
Everyone has a story to tell. Whether they tell the story of their day or the story of their life, the words they say are full of meaning and importance. If we want to grow in our ability to speak effectively about Jesus and proclaim the gospel (to believers and not-yet-believers), then learning how to listen to a person’s story is crucial.
In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus helps us understand the connection between words, actions, and the heart. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
Listening to someone’s story is kind of like examining a fruit tree.
Sometimes the fruit is obvious – financial difficulty, sexual sin, marital conflict, anger – mixed with love, joy, peace, etc. But the real action is under the surface, in the root structure of the tree. According to Jesus, actions and words reveal the heart. And the heart is of primary importance because the heart is the seat of faith. “With the heart a person believes” (Romans 10:10).
A person’s story has the potential to reveal where they have replaced Jesus as the only right object of faith. Jesus is the only one who can save, and we regularly look to created things instead. These false saviors will often be revealed in our stories.
Every great story contains four movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. God’s Story follows the same pattern.