We've all probably done it. We have tried to share the incredible, amazing Gospel story in a few fact-filled, bullet points. Let's admit it: As the "presenter," it's much easier to run down a quick list like this:
- God created the world.
- You're a sinner, look at yourself.
- You need Jesus who died for you.
- If you put your faith in him, you get to go to heaven.
While true, it's not very engaging and probably not something the listener wants to further engage with. Although we have a great deal of context for these facts, the one we give them to probably has little or no context of biblical theology.
Watch this video montage that's a great illustration of sharing facts or bullets without context using The Lord of the Rings story as an example.
If you've seen the movies or read the books, you know exactly what each bullet point means and how it fits in; you have context. If you don't know the stories, you have just been given a bunch of information but you can't be sure how it all fits together and you may feel a little confused. Many of us have shared the Gospel in this manner.
How can we share God's story as a story, but still have a basic outline to keep it simple and keep us on-point?
"If you want people to hear the truth, tell them. If you want people to know the truth, tell them a story."
— Eudora Welty, Author
I believe you can share God's story with an outline—but the importance of keeping it narrative and storylike will greatly add to teh hearers' ability to grasp the Gospel story. As Eudora Welty stated, stories go deeper, and we should be telling God's story, not a list of bullet points or facts.
So how do we do that?
As we've developed The Story booklet and The Story Guide Training, we've worked hard at finding that balance. Here's how I would typically share the Gospel story with someone. I have four basic ideas or chapters I want to convey: Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration. But I share each in a storylike, narrative format.
(How did it all begin?)
God's story, which we're all a character in, started in a beautiful Garden. God created earth and sky, animals and plants—and His greatest creation was man and woman. The best part of all is that everything was in perfect harmony. No cancer, no storms, no arguments, no violence, no wars. Lions and lambs sat next to each other, the world was perfect, and everything worked perfectly together.
God's only requirement was that the first two humans, Adam and Eve, should not eat fruit from one particular tree. They could eat from any other tree but the one. If they did eat from the forbidden tree, it would open their eyes and understanding to what was good and what was evil. Eventually, Eve was tempted and ate the fruit; then she gave some to Adam and he ate it as well. What happened next would change everything and still affects us to this day.
(What went wrong?)
Once Adam and Eve's eyes were opened to right and wrong, good and evil, the perfect harmony that they enjoyed began to unravel. They immediately noticed they were naked, as they had never noticed before. They felt ashamed. The felt fear, as they knew they ate something they shouldn't have. God would soon ask them to leave this beautiful garden. He wasn't angry, He was sad that they didn't obey, just as a child chooses the wrong thing despite his parent's warning. God would make clothes for them and promised to send a rescuer who would make what was wrong right again. Shortly after they left the garden, disharmony showed itself in murder, jealousy, hate, sickness, and death.
Because of this sin and disobedience, we are all plagued today and see the consequence of it all around: disease, war, poverty, crime, hate, divorce, injustice, and the list goes on. Harmony become disharmony. God's letter to us, the Bible, says in Romans 3:10 that no one is righteous, not one. We're all born with a nature or innate desire to do what is wrong or what is selfish. Sin, like a virus, has infected every human heart since the garden. I never had to teach my children to do what is wrong; as toddlers, they chose what they wanted to do despite what I told them not to do. We don't have to look very far or for very long to see the brokenness in our own lives or in our world. But, this is not the end of the story.
(Is there any hope?)
God made an incredible promise in the Garden after Adam and Eve made the choice to disobey. He promised to send someone who would rescue mankind and make things right. Many writings over the next thousands of years would forecast and predict with extreme accuracy where this Rescuer would come from, how He would be born, and how He would die—long before He was on the earth. This Rescuer was Jesus Christ, God's Son. He became one of us humans and was the same in every way but one: He never sinned. He lived a perfect life and while on earth, taught us how to pray, how to live, and how we can know God and have a relationship with Him.
He would soon be accused by religious leaders of His day of blasphemy and sentenced to death on a Roman cross, though He had never done anything wrong. Despite the controversy, this had been foretold for thousands of years, that Jesus would be a perfect sacrifice that would go before each of us and take our place, removing our separation from a perfect God because of sin. By believing in Jesus alone, in His life, death, and resurrection, He becomes our perfection, He gives us His perfect life for our flawed and broken life. This is incredible news and the best part is that this freedom is a free gift! There is nothing you can do to earn it; all you have to do is receive it and believe in Jesus!
(What does the future hold?)
Once you put your trust in Jesus, He says you are a new person, sin has been washed away, He begins to transform your life, He becomes your guide and your helper, your joy and strength. But the best part of all is that even though you will not live forever on this earth, you will live forever in heaven with Jesus where there will be no pain, no sadness, no tears. That perfect garden in the beginning where there was perfect harmony will be restored once again. The Bible tells us there will be a new heaven and a new earth and everything will be the way it was supposed to be, the way we all long for it to be. From a young age, we all want to "live happily ever after..." God has placed this longing in every heart and has made a way for it to become a reality by putting our faith in His Son, Jesus.
This is just an example of bringing the Gospel story to life in a more narrative format. Even though there were four points of Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration, the narrative form helps a listener stay engaged and have a better context and framework of God's story.
There are a many more details and much more complexity in this Gospel story, but as an intro, we have to layout the overarching metanarrative so those hearing it can get a grasp of the Good News.
What surprises me about most of us as Christians is that we have never put much energy into sharing the Gospel. We typically shoot from the hip or we figure we'll wing it when the opportunity arises. Can you imagine doing so with a class or work presentation? Just strolling in and presenting with no or little preparation? Sure, you may know a bunch of facts or ideas, but putting the energy into properly aliging and clearly communicating can make all the difference in the outcome and reception.
My encouragement to you would be to write out God's story, spend time preparing and crafting it. Even integrate your story or testimony into the Gospel story as it is a parallel. In every story—even our own life stories—there's:
- A beginning (exposition) -> Creation
- A conflict (rising action) -> Fall
- A climax (turning point) -> Rescue
- An ending (resolution) -> Restoration
By preparing, you will be ready to share God's story and your story of faith in a concise, clear, and narrative manner. God's wonderful story has the power to change lives, even more so when we're ready and can clearly communicate it.
Pray right now that God would give you a fresh look and ability to share His story. Set aside some time this week to craft Creation/Fall/Rescue/Restoration so you're ready at any moment to tell the greatest story of all.