For most people in our world, reading about Jesus will never connect to their heart, only hearing about him. And yet so many of our evangelism and disciple-making strategies rely on words printed on a page.
- Take Dipu, a 55 year old, from the the Marma people in Bangladesh. He can’t open the Bible in his language, because it’s never been translated.
- Or Abebe, a 45 year old from the Central African Republic. Her uncle has a Bible in her native language, Sangu; but it’s no use to her because she can’t read.
- Or Moe, a 15 year old from Atlanta, Georgia. Her parents migrated here from Burma, and she can speak Burmese, Kareni, and English..but when it comes to her reading any of these languages, it’s a headache.
- Or Dave, a 25 year old from Chicago. He’s smart, but he never reads books (he is one of the 23% of Americans who did not read a book last year¹). Instead he texts, instagrams and flicks through tech blogs in 10 second intervals. He wants to follow Jesus, but he is not going to follow a printed Bible passage with you for more than 3 minutes, without reaching for his phone.
In fact 70% of the world are ‘oral learners’ – they prefer to learn through stories, proverbs and sayings, not conceptual explanations.²
So how do we get the good news to those who don’t want to open a Bible?
23% of Americans did not finish a book last year. So how do we get them to open the Bible?
Tell it using Bible stories.
Our reaction is often – ‘Bible stories are for kids!’. But that might be because we’ve never properly tried them on adults.
Christine Dillon, in Telling the Gospel through Story, argues that Bible storytelling accomplishes at least three things:
- Opens people up to the gospel.
In situations where using a more confronting and abstract gospel presentation might offend people and shut down the conversation, offering a Bible story will be warmly welcomed, and will leave people asking for another.
- Creates community.
Where a conventional gospel presentation might only work one-to-one, Bible stories will often draw others in, naturally create a gathering, and even give opportunity to start a church.
- Changes worldview.
Bible stories don’t just tug on your feelings and your imagination, they also tug on your worldview foundations. If Bible stories are deliberately strung together, the Bible’s big plotline of God’s wonderful grace can open a non-Christian’s eyes to a whole new way of looking at the world.
Maybe that’s why Jesus used them throughout his ministry.
A Pharisee wanting to narrow down who God was really asking him to love, asked Jesus ‘And who is my neighbor?’. Jesus replied ‘A man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho….’
¹The Decline of the American Book Lover
²Willis, Avery. Making Disciples of Oral Learners