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BIBLE STORYING, Article 6: Options for telling the stories

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth 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 week in BP and BP en Español (www.bpnews.net/espanol), is adapted from the book, “A Bible Storying Model” by J.O. Terry. To access the BP story collection thus far of this series, go to www.bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=183.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–In Bible Storying, consider these options:

— Tell one story each encounter. This is the best approach if you plan to discuss the stories with your listeners to draw out the truths in the stories by dialoging about the stories and the implication for the listeners. This is the normal strategy followed in Chronological Bible Storying. If the story list is not too long, you may have time to tell all the stories, discuss them with listeners and bring them to closure with an invitation to believe.

— Tell a cluster of stories each encounter. This approach takes advantage of the fact that stories tend to group together around certain themes or characters which link the stories together. The creation stories (of the spirit world, the natural world and of man and woman) deal with God’s sovereignty. Then a cluster of judgment stories follows (Adam and Eve’s sin, Cain’s sin, judgment of the sinful world in Noah’s day). Then the promise stories (God’s promise to Abraham of a descendant to bless all peoples, the same promise to Isaac and Jacob). The Abraham stories also have the substitute sacrifice which is one of the key stories leading to Christ as the substitute sacrifice for our sin.

The stories of Jesus also fall into clusters (annunciation and birth, baptism and tempting by Satan, healings, forgiveness of sin stories, power encounter stories, passion, death and resurrection stories).

— Tell as a continuous fast-tracked story. This is the best approach if time is very limited or there is a single opportunity to use Bible stories to evangelize. This approach may be done publicly where many are gathered, used with a limited group in a home, used bedside in a hospital, or even one on one when visiting or traveling. In this approach there is no attempt to stop the narrative in order to discuss each story. The stories continue, usually in a somewhat condensed manner moving smoothly from story to story while touching upon all the basic Bible truths leading to salvation. It may be helpful to introduce each story with a word or question about the main theme of the story. For instance: Before the Flood story you might ask, “Do you think it is important to obey what God tells you to do? Did you know that you are here today because one man long ago obeyed what God told him to do? Here’s the story of that obedience and why it was necessary.”

Depending upon the worldview of the listeners, more or less attention is given to the Old Testament stories as a preparation for the stories of Jesus. This approach is done often with some kind of picture set to illustrate the stories and to give a focus for attention. Larger flat pictures are needed for the public groups, booklets or even photo-album pictures may be used for smaller, more intimate groups of listeners. It is not always appropriate to use teaching pictures as they may not be culturally appropriate or may offend some like Muslims. For one-on-one witness, a set of small pictures in a photo album may be helpful.

— Tell a single appropriate story or cluster but not a chronological sequence. We often call this situational storying or point of ministry storying as we choose a story best suited to the situation at hand in which we have an opportunity to witness or minister. This may be a point of encounter opportunity to open up a witness. It may be a ministry situation in which you have opportunity to minister through prayer for a person or family. Before you pray, lift up Jesus with an appropriate story or two as the Spirit leads. Then pray for the person and, before you go, offer to share more Bible stories if invited back. Then you will have opportunity to tell the chronologically arranged stories dealing with worldview issues, covering basic Bible truths leading to salvation, and answering questions.

— Probing for responsiveness and opening the way for a longer storying strategy to follow. By telling the story in a short form, a person may open up a door for an evangelist to come later and, over a much longer period of time, begin to tell the stories one by one and lead the people to talk about what God is saying to them through the stories. This could happen as a follow-up to crusades where volunteers take advantage of home visits and other personal opportunities to introduce the Bible story. Special projects like well drilling, construction of houses, disaster ministry and relief aid all provide times of contact and increased interest which give opportunity for short-track Bible storying. This, too, is a further opportunity for a longer and more thorough Bible storying strategy by a local missionary or national Baptist partner who knows the people’s worldview and speaks their language with the right vocabulary for their understanding.
J.O. Terry is publisher of the Bible Storying Newsletter and the Journal of Bible Storying. He was a 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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  • By J.O. Terry & Daniel R. Sanchez