I recently wrote this article for Facts & Trends magazine on The Power of Story: Captivated by the Gospel.
Do you remember the last time you heard a good story?
It’s easy to become captivated by a compelling narrative or a fascinating myth. Stories are instruments of powerful mnemonic and formative capability.
From movies to novels or warm conversations over dinner, stories can capture our imagination and shape the way we think about the world like nothing else can. We love stories.
And like children sitting on the edge of a bed awaiting their parents to read a beloved bedtime book, we long to be told a good story. But more importantly, we want to be part of a good story.
Stories help us make sense of where we find ourselves, what has gone wrong with things, and what can be done about it. Stories shape and narrate how we view ourselves. These narratives speak to a deep longing in our hearts, opening the doors of possibility to things that could be.
However, most of the narratives that captivate the imaginations of children are nothing more than fanciful myths.
Sadly, the same can be said of the worldviews that narrate the worlds of most adults. The burning question that each of us must ask is, who gets to narrate my world?
The true story of the whole world
As Christians, we understand all people are confronted by a host of master narratives that compete with, and often contradict, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We also believe God has revealed the true story of the whole world. The story of Christ is, as C.S. Lewis put it, “the true myth.”
In many ways, the Bible presents redemptive history as a four-part drama—creation, fall, redemption, restoration. In that drama, Jesus isn’t part of the story; He is the point of the story.
Evangelism is sharing the greatest story ever told, namely, the story of redemption through Jesus Christ.
In order to make sense of our lives, we depend on narratives that provide us a broader framework of meaning.
I believe Alasdair MacIntyre was correct in After Virtue, when he wrote: “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’”
This principle is extremely important for evangelism. Not only do we need to understand the true story of the whole world, we also need to understand how to read the story of those we talk with. What narrative shapes their worldview, outlook and self-image?
Reading their story, sharing Christ’s story
Too often our evangelism efforts are driven by one-sided, canned presentations. How often do we listen to those we are sharing with in order to present the gospel to them with wisdom and care?
What if our efforts in sharing the good news were less about putting people in evangelistic headlocks until they make a decision and more about capturing their imagination with the beautiful gospel?
We believe the story of Jesus’ life and work is directly related to the story of our world, and to the personal stories of everyone we meet.
When we share the gospel with others, do we ever stop to wonder if they are able to perceive how the gospel is good news for them? How does Jesus’ story enter their story?
What people need to know is not only what the gospel is, but also what the gospel does. We need to show them the beauty of the gospel and pray that God would open their eyes to see it.
In his book Unbelievable Gospel, Jonathan Dodson suggests that using gospel metaphors at the prompting of the Holy Spirit is a more effective way to aim at the heart of the listener.
In other words, apply the gospel to their story.
- To those searching for acceptance in all the wrong places, we can point them to perfect acceptance in the gospel of justification.
- To those searching for fulfilling relationships, we can point them to profound, personal union with Christ.
- To those who struggle with tolerance, we can show them the uniqueness of Christ in the gospel of redemption.
- To those who fear disapproval or demand the applause of others, we can share the gospel of adoption, which offers an enduring approval and produces humble confidence.
- To anyone longing for a new start, there is the hope of new creation.
Tell His story
This is not changing the message of the gospel, but aiming that message to hit people at their deepest needs.
The gospel story is the only story that will help your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors make sense of the world they find themselves in, what has gone wrong with it, and what has been done about it.
As those who are captivated by God’s story, let us go as storytellers and captivate others with the grace of God found in Jesus Christ.
Sin and death may be part of the story, but we know where the story ends. Paradise may be lost, but in Christ we are headed for peace and satisfaction forever after.
The gospel story is good news. Do you remember the last time you told this great story?