Sunday, July 15

Engaging not-yet believers through storytelling

The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission For the 21st Century Church by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch is one of those "must read" books. There is so much great content within its pages that I find myself reading and rereading chapters.

One chapter in particular deals with ways we can engage not-yet believers. Since I consider myself a life-long student of evangelism and church planting, their words have me rethinking these matters.

The first of five suggestions for engaging the lost is storytelling.
Excite curiosity through storytelling. In our attempts to make the gospel clear, we have often squeezed all the life out of it. Jesus parables were intriguing, open to interpretation, playful, interesting. They provoked people to search further for the truth. Parables, stories, will be more likely to excite curiosity than propositionally presented outlines of the gospel.

Second...use Bible stories. This might sound like the ultimate conversation stopper, but at the right time and place, within the context of an established relationship, the retelling of an ancient biblical story can evoke a great deal of curiosity.

Third...use personal stories. Stories are events in a life. Telling stories demands personal honesty, accepting our weaknesses as well as our strengths. It is only when we reveal ourselves as weak and vulnerable that others will readily identify with us and be able to hear the invitation to join us in following Jesus.

John Drane says that if you think of the three kinds of stories as three overlapping circles, their point of intersection, where God's story, our story, and the biblical stories overlap, is where effective evangelism takes place.
While we have always promoted the use of "personal stories" and testimonies in our evangelism, I am convinced we should be putting a lot more effort into this kind of sharing. Nearly everyone loves a good story. The most intriguing are those "real life" stories that intersect with our own journey and experience. Hearing each others stories seems to be an excellent way to share the greatest story of all.

What has been your own experience with storytelling as it relates to sharing the Gospel?

9 comments:

amanda in taiwan said...

I live among a people that is rooted in oral learning. People here LOVE LOVE LOVE stories.

I am forever telling them.

We have a 5 week "seeker" study. And basically it stories the Bible. At the end of each lesson we ask for ways we can pray for those in attendance. Then the next week at the beginning we ask for them to tell us their stories of how God answered.

This is always SO POWERFUL! To have the not-yet believers telling stories of how this good God met their needs that week.

Each week we also train these not-yet believers to retell the story and encourage them to go repeat the story to at least one other person before the next meeting.

I also live in a country that is seeped in fear of ghosts. My very favorite get 'em interested story is "hey do you believe in ghosts?" . . . "oh, yeah? I do too. wanna know where they come from?" Now I get to tell all about creation and the fall. They are HOOKED and always want to find out more.

Kevin, Somewhere in South America said...

Guy,

I have my ambivalent moments when it comes to storying. I feel it is an age-old and effective means to evangelism. I am also one of those who examines the Scripture where I see others who went into other cultures, apparently using varying styles of oral presentations.

For me, what it comes down to is less about the method we use and more about the power behind it--namely the Holy Spirit's power in our lives. I am increasingly burdened about being partially filled and not filled to overflowing.

Let me be reduntant: it's not the method, it's the message. And it is the source of our power that makes the message effective. So, let's just get out there and share the Story of all stories!

antonio said...

I have found that story telling is not just something for winning people in Christ but very useful throughout life....discipleship, counselling, etc. Sometimes people (I) need it put into different teams to understand or to catch my attention.

antonio said...

*terms

Strider said...

I love to tell stories. I am forever telling stories from my life or from the scriptures. Our people love stories and especially love a good story teller. Many on our team do not love to tell stories. They don't learn that way and they do not share that way. But in the method question brought up by Kevin, do we go with what we are comfortable with or with what will communicate effectively with the people we are sharing with? I believe that we must crucify our own learning styles and comfort and do what will impact our people.

GuyMuse said...

Amanda,

People here love stories too. I guess everybody loves stories! If we are all into stories, why not present the Gospel-the Good News-in story form? Many of our colleagues use "Chronological Bible Storying" for this very reason. Sounds like you are doing the same there in Taiwan!

Kevin,

I would agree that how the message is packaged is important. If we can't share our message in a meaningful and appropriate manner, the message will be lost. M's must be communication specialists. Those who understand communication principles will likely be ahead of the game than those who think "anything will fly." However, your point about the Spirit's power in our life trumps everything else. If we are filled and operating in the power of the Spirit, HE will communicate no matter how faulty the instrument.

Antonio,

We spend a lot of time sharing our personal stories with one another. What God is teaching us, lessons learned, God at work in our lives, etc. As others hear our stories, they too begin to tune in to God's activity in their own lives.

GuyMuse said...

Strider,

You are a living example of a great storyteller! I love your stories and keep going back to your blog to hear more of the neat God stories you share. The arts have always been for me an effective way for me to channel my faith and message. Story telling is definitely one of those arts. Just look at the power of movies and TV which have become this generations favorite medium for story telling.

Anne said...

Hi All, this is Anne in Taiwan.
I agree with Amanda, storytelling works really well here. Where are you, Amanda? I'm in Hsinchu.

Anyway, after years of using studies, I am newly convinced stories are more effective and committed to learning to use them well. Resources you all have found good would be welcome. Or contexts other than one on one?

Good blog, good comments, great God!

Blessings!
Anne

GuyMuse said...

Anne in Taiwan,

Thanks for stopping by and for the encouraging words.

Here in South America we have a "Church Planting Forum" made up of M's from all over the Spanish-speaking world. One of the purposes is to share materials, thoughts, struggles, etc. with one another. Right now, for example, we are discussing the future of missions. Sounds like it would be good for you guys over in your part of the world to come up with something similar where you can share resources, story sets, etc. The forum has been a big help for those of us sharing in our part of the world.