How Do You Tell The Story?


This week I’ll be speaking with teens at a Christian summer camp in western Massachusetts.  It’s something I’ve done before, and I’ve really enjoyed it.  During my last visit, the Lord moved pretty powerfully and impacted many kids and staff with physical and emotional healing, so I’m excited about this next week.

Doing these sorts of gigs (Can I call it that?) always presents me with a challenge, however.  It’s a good challenge, to be sure, but a challenge nonetheless.

See, when I speak, especially to teens or younger, I like to tell stories.  Stories captivate us, they make us participants, and they engage us to think about ourselves in ways that fell both safe and uninhibited.  Often, I’m compelled to tell the Jesus story.

So the question that plagues me as I prepare for this week is this: How do you tell The Story?

I’ve long been frustrated with the older evangelical way of telling our story, that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and provide a way to heaven.  It’s true, to an extent.  But to me, it leaves too big a chunk left unsaid and fixes on an aspect that probably shouldn’t be front and center: me.  It leaves me wondering: Well, that’s nice, but what about the rest of the world?  What about everyone else?  Do I do anything now as a result?  And really, did Jesus die two thousand years ago just for me?  Isn’t God a whole lot bigger than that?  And why doesn’t the Bible actually tell stories about me?  It can’t be all about me, can it?

Each time I embark on some project like this, I’m revisited with the dilemma afresh.  How can I tell The Story in a way that is true to the history of the Creator intersecting His creation and still pertains to this 21st century world?  How do I tell the story that simultaneously demonstrates the personal, individual impact of the gospel (surely it’s there) and still highlight the grand scope of God’s project?

I’m open to ideas, whether revolutionary or time-tested.  I’ve been struck by N.T. Wright’s Five Acts, for example, though I won’t be using it this week.  As I go through the week, I’ll be outlining my approach (at least, this version of my approach).

But I’m curious: How do you tell The Story?


2 thoughts on “How Do You Tell The Story?

  1. These are excellent questions, Mike! I wish I had some great answers for you. but really, I don’t know that I have thought it through as much as you have. So as you find new insights I would really like to hear them! It would surely help me in my ministry.

    I guess I actually have been thinking along this line in a way though, as I prepare myself for going to the Pine Ridge Reservation a month from now. I have been thinking about how I will present the story in a different culture…in a culture that has heard it already, many times. In a culture that says “That’s a white man’s God.” In a culture that has historically been very hurt by the church.

    Of course speaking to different generations, as you are doing, can be just as much a different culture that you are speaking to.

    I guess what I am planning on doing at the reservation, and what I have found to be effective in conversations online with Lakota people, is to begin by listening. Listening to their story. I will say something (intentionally or otherwise) that opens up a dialogue. Then I listen to their pain, their objections to the gospel message, their bad experiences with the church or with individual Christians. I acknowledge what was wrong, I validate their feelings, and sometimes I apologize for “Christians behaving badly”, for the church hurting more than helping at times.

    I have found that this genuine humility in listening, and validation of their feelings, has given me a platform on which to speak. I take the time to earn their trust.

    Paul did that on Mars Hill. He took the time to learn their culture, and found bridges to make connections, common ground on which to build. It can take a good deal of time.

    I don’t know if any of this helps you, but your questions have sure helped me to think!

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