Telling the Gospel Through Story

Telling the Gospel Through Story

Evangelism that keeps hearers wanting more.
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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.

The wonderful thing about storying is that it's far more than a quick telling of the good news. We Christians often want our evangelistic methods to be time-efficient and produce guaranteed results. But evangelism should not be hurried. People who have heard and discussed many stories come to Christ more prepared than those who are evangelized in other ways. In one sense, you could say that storying is "discipling people to conversion."

If you're reading this, then you're probably already committed to communicating the gospel in the best way possible. You long to see Jesus glorified, with your family, friends and neighbors part of that crowd rejoicing around the throne (Rev 7:10, 12).

Learning to story is worth the investment in time and energy. I often see hope dawning on people's faces as they're trained in this method. They're delighted to discover that they've found a simple, biblical tool almost anyone can learn.

If you've been frustrated that people don't seem interested in hearing the gospel, you may be amazed at how well storying works. I've found it to be more fruitful and effective than many other approaches to evangelism. It's a natural, appealing way to communicate the gospel, and once you get started, people actually want to hear more. Storying has great potential to help many people come to know God.

Adapted from Telling the Gospel Through Story by Christine Dillon (IVP). Used by permission of InterVarsity Press PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.

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