Would you consider me a heretic, if I were to suggest to you, that telling a story might be a better way of presenting the gospel to a non-believer, than “Two Ways To Live” or dare I say even better than the “Four Spiritual Laws” (for those readers who are old enough to rememberthisgospel presentation)?
I’ll explain why a story could be a morepowerful method than these hallowed presentations (& others like them) in just a moment, but firstly I need to introduce to you,the concept of propositional learning,.Relax,it will all make perfect sense by the time you reach the end of this article.
Propositional Learning Sucks.
World Health Organizations were befuddled when they warned villagers in Africa and Asia, about the dangers of drinking unboiled water. Their Media adverts went something like this.
“The water in your river is contaminated, if you drink it without boiling it, you’ll become sick. So, boil the water before you drink it”.
However,the message went unheeded, the villagers continued to drink the water without boiling it and became sick.
Why didn’t they just boil the water? You ask.
Because they don’t learn or think like us. We in the West have been taught to think propositionally, to present a series of statements in a logically progression then to draw a conclusion from the statements.
However, according to Sam Chan1, most people in the world (80% of them) don’t learn that way. They learn by astory. Let’s rephrase the same message in a story. Here we go.
“Mary and her children always became sick after drinking the water fromthe river. One day Mary decided to boil the water, for the first time after drinking the boiled water, Mary and her kids didn’t get sick. So now Mary always boils the water before drinking it, so that she and her kids can enjoy life in their village again”
Which is True to the Bible, Story or Propositional Argument?
Well neither, for we find both in the New Testament. On the one hand, Jesus told stories to illustrate a point, they’re called parables. While on the other hand Paul used propositional reasoning. You only need to read the first eight chapters of Romans, to find Paul’s cogent argument for Justification by Faith alone. It does my head in.
The important thing to remember is not to confuse the ‘method’ with the ‘message’. Both are legitimate methods of presenting the gospel message.
I remember learning ‘Two Ways to Live’, it wasa massive task. Not only do you need to remember the six points, but you also have to remember the correct sequence, leave out a point or get them confused, then the presentation falls over.
Furthermore, as I reflect on it now, if I had trouble recalling the order of the points (and I’ve learnt them) how can we expect the unconverted listener with zero religious background to follow it?
Pick a Story, Not Just Any Story
Telling a story (not just any story) has many advantages, apart from being easier to retell than a syllogism, our brains (and therefore our audience’s) are hard wired to process stories.
Just think of how many biographies, and novels we consume and the number of movies we watch. They’re all telling stories and we love them.
So unlike licking the dust on the desert floor as we read through Calvin’s Institutes or a Uni text book, stories are easily understood and enjoyed.
And the marvel of a story is that we are asking our listener momentarily to suspend belief, in order to look for the meaning behind the story. The story does not need to have happened. For example, profundity of the message of the Prodigal Son, is not diminished in the least, if there were no such family. It’s the message contained in the story which moves us.
Now obviously, we need to know which story to use. And if we’ve been building a strong relationship with our non-Christian friend, then we’ll know which story to tell them.
Let’s say your friend has had an abortion, and asa consequence is smitten with grief and shame. Then telling the story of the woman with the flow of blood, whom Jesus healed would suit. A menstruating woman in Jewish culture of the time, was extremely unclean. It would be utterly unthinkable, taboo to touch her. She touched Jesus, Jesus responded, once finding her in the crowd with heartwarming compassion, not condemnation. Forgiveness is available through Jesus.
Or someone who’s busy building wealth and so besotted by it that they’re incognizant of it’s fleeting nature. They’ve prepared for retirement but not for eternity. The parable of the rich fool would fit here.
Ór the story of the leper who on account of his leprosy was a pariah in his community, no one would go near him, for fear of contamination, but Jesus made a special effort to touch the man in order to heal him. This could suit someone who has a drug addiction and feels unclean. Jesus will reach down to them and cleanse them, no one is beyond redemption.
So let’s study the New Testament with fresh eyes, searching for pertinent stories to tell our unbelieving friends.
Vic Matthews, has three degrees B.Optom, B.Arts& B. Christian Studies. He is a kiteboard tragic, who now works as a Christian Copywriter. He can be found at http://trustworthycopywriter.com/writing-services/christian-copywriter/
Vic Matthews' previous articles may be viewed http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/vic-matthews.html