When it comes to sharing the Gospel of Jesus there is one strategy that has resounding success in seeing people come to Christ: Bible story-telling. What is Bible story-telling? Simply put, Bible story-telling is a strategy of sharing the whole Bible’s story with a community or people group to give the target audience a historical understanding of who Jesus is and why we must receive him. Bible story-telling doesn’t necessarily tell every story from the Old Testament to the New Testament, but it does give the hearer a detailed overview to the extent that they begin to understand how Jesus fits into the Bible and the history of man. It is not uncommon in some countries for nearly whole communities to come to Christ as a result of taking part in Bible story-telling sessions.Why is this method so effective, especially in developing nations? I’d like to present you with five key principles why Bible story-telling is such a critical tool for missions today and perhaps even for ministry in the US as most nonbelievers in the US have no familiarity with the Bible or the historical claims of Jesus.
- Bible story-telling is progressive in revelation—just as the Bible is progressive in its revelation of Jesus
Have you noticed how many ministries share the Gospel by starting with Jesus? Have you noticed that many people hand out copies of the New Testament expecting people to understand the revelation therein? Think through this for a moment. Much of what is read in the New Testament depends upon an understanding of key Old Testament principles and ideas for the reader to fully “get it.” For instance, if you don’t know anything about Mosaic Law on animal sacrifice, then what does it mean when John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God?” How about all of Paul’s talk about the Law? If you don’t have a historical understanding of the Old Testament, then how do you make sense of Paul’s writings? Paul’s writings are filled with Old Testament references and allusions. One reason why God didn’t simply reveal Jesus to the world at the beginning of creation or early in history was to provide a historical reference for people to recognize Jesus. Imagine if there were no Old Testament history and Jesus appeared on the scene. How would he prove that he was the Son of God (other than by miracles)? Because there is an Old Testament history we can see the life of Jesus prophesied and feel confident that he is who both Testaments claim him to be.
- Bible story-telling helps the hearer assimilate a worldview that is different from the worldview they have assimilated in their culture
Every culture in the world has a set of beliefs partly founded upon religious principles already inculcated in that culture. Therefore, it is only natural that when a person hears about Jesus for the first time that they relate what they already know to the truth they are being told. For instance, if you share Jesus with a Muslim he naturally interprets Jesus’ identity with what he finds in the Quran. If you share Jesus with a Buddhist he naturally interprets Jesus to be another Buddha bringing enlightenment instead of as the unique Son of God. If you share Jesus with a shamanist he naturally interprets Jesus to be a spirit that needs to be appeased to bring blessing or to curse someone. These things happen when a person is presented Jesus without a historical understanding for his identity and claims. However, by telling the Bible’s story the hearer begins to understand that Jesus is different from what their worldview may automatically bring to his mind.
- The entire story must be told because only the entire story fully reveals God’s redemptive activity in the world and through Christ. Without a full presentation of the story the learner is left with an incomplete understanding of the reality of Jesus.
It is because many Christians have a partial understanding that cult groups can so easily come in and deceive the people they are trying to reach. For example, in many developing nations where the Gospel is preached, the Mormon church sees great success in converting “Christians” over to mormonism. Why? Because the people they are targeting have some rudimentary understanding about Jesus, but not a more complete understanding. A fuller understanding through the storying process not only gives adherents a better grasp of who Jesus is, but it also arms them against cult groups like the Mormon Church so that they can better defend their faith and not be duped.
- Bible story-telling can generally be used in two ways: Telling the story from Genesis to Jesus, or to tell a set of chronological stories that reveal principles or functions such as church planting, leadership, spiritual maturity, and so on.
Going from Genesis to Jesus is the most basic and fruitful way of conducting Bible story-telling. It immediately sets apart the story being told as different from what the hearer’s previous religious views may be. It reveals Jesus as a person of history rather than just a teacher of principles or a legend. It reveals, over time, who Jesus is in the Old Testament (history) as well as in the New Testament.By using the stories in sets, the teacher can establish teachings on key practices and commands for Christians to perform. Why is the Sabbath day important? Why is communion important? How should these and other principles from both Testaments be carried out? Storying helps the discipleship process. Ultimately, that is our goal, to make full disciples. Knowing both Testaments is crucial to seeing that goal fulfilled.
- The Bible’s story is the history of redemption. The Bible’s story is the beginning of sanctification.
Biblical redemption cannot be properly defined without Old Testament principles and even the stories. Our very understanding of redemption comes from God’s first act of animal sacrifice in Genesis 3. That understand grows by leaps and bounds when we understand the ideas behind the Mosaic redemption of family, spouse, the firstborn, and animal sacrifice for sin. I’d dare say that we cannot truly understand what redemption means apart from the history of the Old Testament.When we come to a fuller understanding of redemption we then learn about sanctification. The Mosaic Law contains a rich and robust treasure of principles related to sanctification. It is in these Old Testament practices that we see the foreshadowing of the Christ to come and his act of redemption on our behalf and how, as a result, we must sanctify ourselves to the love and service of God.ConclusionIs your church or ministry using Bible story-telling? If not, there are a number of online resources available to help you incorporate Bible story-telling into your ministry. From pre-prepared stories and lessons to video segments and even adaptation of Bible movies, there are numerous resources that any ministry to use and adapt for their special needs.