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BIBLE STORYING, Article 2: Barriers to the Gospel

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 2nd in a series of 10 articles on Bible Storying being published by Baptist Press and Baptist Press en Español. The series, which is appearing each Friday in BP and BP en Español (www.bpnews.net/espanol), is adapted from the book, “A Bible Storying Model” by J.O. Terry. The introductory article of the series can be accessed at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=34971 and first article in the series at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=34972.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–In the first article we presented an introduction to Bible Storying based on the book “A Bible Storying Model” by J.O. Terry. In this article we want to review some of the barriers to the Gospel and explain how this method of storying can provide bridges to the Gospel.


There are a number of hindrances to the Gospel. One is limited literacy. Some peoples are non-literate, primary oral communicators, not reading at all. So you can’t use a tract or give them a Bible to read. Others have limited literacy from lack of education and struggle with religious and other unfamiliar vocabulary which they do not know. Still others have Bibles or Scripture portions in only the regional or trade language used among their neighboring people groups, but not in their own spoken heart language.

Many are resistant to the Gospel message and any attempts to present it. They may have been cautioned against its message as being Western and part of a plan of Western imperialism. In extreme cases the people may be openly hostile to what they construe as preaching. So any attempt to witness in a manner that suggests preaching is quickly and openly opposed. It may not be the message so much as the manner of the presentation they are rejecting. The same message in a more compatible and culturally acceptable form such as Bible Storying can be both enjoyable and acceptable to listeners.

There are barriers that have to do with the worldview of people groups. If in their worldview there are no concepts about God, creator of the universe, the fact that people in this world are accountable to Him, and that Christ offered the perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity, then it is necessary to tell Bible stories so they can understand basic biblical concepts.

One of the most difficult hurdles is the listeners’ own view of sin and what must be done about it. It can take time to draw the listeners in and hold their attention long enough for them to say, “We are like those people in the stories who have sinned and are under God’s judgment.” When the listeners understand their inescapable predicament before a righteous God, then they are ready to hear what God has done to redeem the sinner through Jesus.


Every witnessing encounter involves a relationship, however brief it may be. The longer the encounter, the stronger the relationship, the greater the trust level, and the greater the possibility of listeners coming to understand the implications the Gospel has for them.

Further, stories are relatively easy to remember and to recall, leading to the possibility of retelling among others. The stories serve to anchor the truths related to salvation. Whenever the stories are retold the witness continues.

Stories are entertaining. You may be thinking, I didn’t come to these people to entertain them. Yet, if we don’t attract their attention and hold it long enough to share the Gospel, then what have we accomplished? It may be the entertainment value of a good story which helps to overcome hostility to hearing Gospel stories. Stories foster fellowship in the communal setting of storying.

Another of the bridges can be the fact that in some cultural groups there is already a custom of telling stories. If this is the case, hearing stories for them is an excellent way to communicate. In some instances it is beneficial to listen to their stories and try to find themes (e.g., the value of friendships, forgiveness, etc.). In such cases, stories such as that of David and Jonathan and the parable of the Prodigal Son can build bridges to communicate divine truths.

There are many other bridges as people have dreams in which Jesus appears to them. Many like Hindus are seeking peace in their lives. The downtrodden need a message of God’s love and forgiveness. Even the desire to learn English can be a bridge for sharing the Gospel.
J.O. Terry is publisher of the Bible Storying Newsletter and the Journal of Bible Storying. He was media missionary in Asia with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board from 1968-2003. Daniel R. Sanchez is associate dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Scarborough Institute of Church Planting & Growth.

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  • J.O. Terry & Daniel R. Sanchez