The first goal of telling a story, whether it is a bible story or a personal testimony, is to make it relatable to the listener in such a way to open their heart to want to know more in order to receive Jesus Christ as their own savior. Secondary goals are to make it memorable and repeatable so that the listener can keep it in their heart and mind, repeat it to themselves and repeat it to others. This is part three about strategies and devices for telling evangelistic bible stories, making them relatable and memorable and repeatable.
Our last article, More Strategies for Telling Repeatable Evangelistic Bible Stories finished with audience participation, altering voices and drama. If drama is not an option, puppets with practice are enjoyed by many cultures, including adults. But, don’t take it for granted and try and use them without practice. No culture is interested in puppets whose mouth forgets to move or who stares at the ceiling and forgets to look down.
In addition to puppets and drama, the occasional story that uses pictures and drawings can draw an audience in to the story and make it more interesting.
Music relates to everyone and every culture. When possible music is a great way to share the gospel and bible stories, especially if you can tie in the music of the culture you are trying to reach. Think about spiritual songs that you know and how they relate to your understanding of Christianity. Amazing Grace has transcended generations and cultures.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
These 26 words explain life as a sinner and the often difficult concept of grace. And this song has been re-written into a more contemporary sound for younger generations, such as the one written by Chris Tomlin “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” and the further departure but same message of “This is Amazing Grace” by Phil Wickham.
Don Francisco is a singer/composer who tells stories with his music. “He’s Alive” is a memorable, sing-able song that tells the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus and the forgiveness of Jesus for Peter after his resurrection. It is a very powerful song.
Let’s face it, most of us don’t have the kind of talent you need to write songs in another language, let alone speak to another culture, but many cultures have Christian songs in their own music. You simply have to look for them and ask the right people.
Have you ever seen Bishop T.D. Jakes preach? He has a mega-church in Texas and a television program. If you have ever watched him you know he has a device he employs in every sermon. This is not a bad thing in any way, it is simply an attention getter, something that he does to keep the attention of his congregation and to make them participants in the message. With enthusiasm he says something like, “Touch three people and tell them Jesus loves you.” The congregation responds by repeating the line he told them to say while touching their neighbor. This is especially useful if you are preaching on a theme such as forgiveness. When he says touch two people and tell them they are forgiven, it reinforces the theme and speaks forgiveness to the hearer. The person who needs forgiveness goes home having heard that they are forgiven over and over again. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
Asking questions is another device that used sparingly can work well, especially if the questions are repeated. A simple example might be when the storyteller is telling the creation story. He tells how God created the light, then asks “Who is the creator of light?” He tells the story of God creating the animals and asks, “Who is the creator of the animals?” This reinforces that God is all powerful and the creator of all.
Finally, when possible a story can relate well when the people can identify with the people in the story. I tell the story of the Good Samaritan this way. The people of Bolivia cannot relate to a Samaritan, they have no idea where Samaria is or that they were considered low class. In addition, they don’t know where Jerusalem or Jericho is, or who is a Levite. So, I change the people in the story and the location, but keep to the principle of the story as told by Jesus.
A certain man was walking on the road that goes from Calacachi to San Juan de Cerca (two villages in the Altiplano of Bolivia) when he ran into some thieves who beat him and left him for dead. A yitiri came by and saw him, but passed by him (A Yitiri is a witch) and a Ch’mankani also came by and saw him, but passed by him (A Ch’mankani is a higher order of witch, said to own the darkness), but a Conquistado came to him—(Conquistador were very much disliked and were the enemy of the Aymara)….you get the idea. It is the hated, the disliked that helps the man, not the witches and then I say that this was a story by Jesus to show us that we should help our neighbor—or I ask them, who treated the man like he was his neighbor. I have been told that this is a very, very good story.
These are simply suggestions to make you story telling more interesting, relatable, memorable and repeatable. This is not an all inclusive list nor is this the only way to do story telling. These are simply tested and tried and they work for me. Let God direct you in telling His Story.