Evangelism that keeps hearers wanting more.
| posted 1/29/2013
We continued through Jesus' birth and ministry. Finally we reached his death and resurrection. "Do you remember what the temple curtain in the Old Testament symbolized?" I asked.
"The separation between God and people," said one.
"What was the only way people could be forgiven and continue to be friends with God?"
"A representative had to prepare himself carefully and then kill a perfect sacrifice and take its blood through the curtain," another responded.
"So what did it mean when the temple curtain split from top to bottom just when Jesus died?"
They started hesitantly, saying, "I guess it means … that because Jesus died … the barrier between us and God has been dealt with." Then they concluded in a rush, "So we can once again be friends with God."
"So Jesus was like that perfect sacrifice," one said.
"Yes, but he was also the representative," chimed in another.
At last I called an end to the storying before we'd exhausted ourselves and lost the joy of discovery. Two days later as the family was departing, Steve said, "I'm going home to find my Bible. If those religious experts had told me such relevant stories, I would have happily gone to their church and wouldn't have given up searching."
How did I get involved with Bible storying? I was a reluctant starter. As a teenager, the child of missionaries, I had heard about chronological Bible storying. My impression was that it was best suited for illiterate tribal peoples. When I became a missionary myself, my context was different. I did church planting with OMF International among working-class people in modern, industrialized southern Taiwan. Nearly everyone could read, although a large portion of the population chose to learn in ways other than via the printed word.
I taught the Bible in a wide range of situations, from one-to-one evangelism and discipling to Bible study groups, training seminars and public teaching. I used many stories to illustrate my teaching. Constant feedback and self-evaluation helped improve my teaching, but I never thought to change my basic communication building blocks.
God obviously had a different plan! In 2004 I observed a six-hour OMF training seminar in which the leader told stories from Genesis to the ascension. I enjoyed the stories personally, but I still didn't think they suited my style. I was already a reasonable communicator and believed it would be a huge challenge to adapt my teaching style. Simply put, change of this magnitude seemed like too much work.
So I learned to tell the creation story with reluctance. The next step was to find someone who would listen to it. I chose a busy photo-developing shop for my first attempt—a decision that, looking back, may not have been wise. I didn't do a particularly good job with the story. And a constant flow of customers meant numerous interruptions.
What astounded me was the response of the hearer. She loved the story and wanted to hear more. Suddenly I was no longer having to initiate gospel conversations. Instead people were asking me to tell them about the Bible. The adventure of a lifetime had started.