Jun 3, 2012

Conversational Evangelism & Biblical Stories

The telling of Biblical stories and the telling of our own stories are powerful ways to share the Christian faith. Story telling is a wonderful medium to embed the Gospel into people’s hearts. William Bausch sums the Bible up as a storybook when he writes,

None of us has to be a theologian to appreciate the story of the Good Samaritan and no one, however degreed, has a claim on all it’s meaning. Stories like the Good Samaritan do not give us facts nor do they really give us proofs for anything. Instead they do what they are meant to do: provide us with images and ways of thinking about life’s imponderables with God as the reference point.[1]

Sharing Biblical stories allows people to see that God is the centre point and they are given access to understanding and perceiving God in ways that they may not have considered. Stories help people remember more clearly as they draw on the imagery; the right hand side of the brain is engaged and the story heard becomes embedded conceptually in the mind. In ancient times the Word of God was spoken long before it was read. Storytelling was the way of communicating the wonders of God.[2]

            Richard Peace picks up on the power of telling stories when he encourages people to move beyond the shallow conversations about God to telling the stories of Jesus that reveal exactly who Christ is. Stories that reveal that he is fully divine yet fully human.[3] The challenge however is to tell the stories in our own words and in ways that others can understand, in ways that relate to the situations that people find themselves in today.

“We just have to learn to tell these stories in fresh and accurate ways so that in our conversation we can say, “Well, there is this story about Jesus when he met up with…” and off we go into a paraphrase of one of the Gospel stories.”[4]

            Some of the basic stories that reveal Jesus are the story of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-32), a story that reveals Jesus as one who gives people a second chance; the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37), a story that reveals that Jesus is not interested in us just being religious but wants us to do good to others; and the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), a story that reveals Christ as one who accepts all, loves all and forgives all. Telling these stories in our own words is the key to seeing others understand who Jesus really is.

As an example we may paraphrase the story of the women at the well in the following way. “One day Jesus arrived around noon at a well in an area called Samaria. He was completely exhausted from walking so he sat down at the well ready for a drink. At the well was a woman who had slept around with many men; she was looked down on by her community. Jesus not bothered by her background or her culture sat down and chatted with her. His interest was to show love, respect and forgiveness to all people. She was shocked that he spoke with her and her life was dramatically changed by her encounter with Christ.” This simple story illustrates to others that Christ loves them no matter what, He accepts them when others do not and He offers forgiveness regardless of what they have done wrong. Told in the right way to our friends, gives them access to who Jesus is.
            Sharing our own stories that reveal that character of Jesus is also very important. In conversations with others we should look for opportunities to naturally share our experiences. Sharing in a way that is natural and non-confrontational can be a challenge. Tina Waldrom refers to this as sharing on the “backfoot”; the principle she refers to is “backfoot/frontfoot evangelism”.[5] It is all about talking about God truths in non-confrontational ways in our conversations. Instead of being confrontational and telling people that Jesus is alive and to get their life together, it would be more beneficial to relax (lean backwards, on the backfoot) and say something like, “I know you probably don’t believe in God, but I decided to pray about getting a job and I got one. You may think it’s silly but I really think it was God. What about you, do you think that God could be real?”[6] Our body language has a lot to do with our story telling, in this instance Tina encourages people to physically lean backward a little when sharing their story so that what they have to say is not physically pushed at the receiver by leaning forward or getting into the persons personal space.

Personal Reflection Time:
Think of the last time you had a conversation about God with someone who does not know Christ yet. How did you go? What stories could you use in the future to help reveal Christ to this person?

Discussion Questions for you to use:

1. What Biblical stories, other than those mentioned are good ones to share with friends?

2. Choose a Biblical story and have a go at telling it in your group in your own words.

3. Describe a time where you used the non-confrontational, on the backfoot style of story telling with a friend.

[1] William J. Bausch, Storytelling : Imagination and Faith (Mystic, Conn.: Twenty-Third Publications, 1985), 115.
[2] Ibid., 29-63.

[3] Richard Peace, Holy Conversation : Talking About God in Everyday Life (Downers Grove Ill: IVP Connect, 2006), 51.

[4] Ibid.
[5] Tina Waldrom, Through the Door: Personal Evangelism without the Usual Disasters and Mishaps (Melbourne, Australia: Tina Waldrom / CityLife Church).

[6] Ibid.