Posted on: 15th June 2022
Catherine Puffett (serving with Colin) says “France needs the gospel!” She shares how Bible storytelling is a core part of their church planting ministry among the deep thinking, highly literate French people.
In France, philosophy is a core year 12 subject, and students are trained in high school and university (as well as through panel television shows, radio and podcasts) to think critically using ‘dialectical reasoning’. ‘Dialectical reasoning’ means putting opposing ideas together and coming to new and perhaps radical conclusions. It appeals to French people, and I’ve seen this play out in both formal and informal settings.
So, how does philosophical reasoning interact with church planting in France?
In preparing to plant our church, the core team met regularly for a year to discuss what church is, and what could reach French people with the gospel. We became convinced that Bible storytelling—the memorisation and presentation of the Bible orally, and then discussion of what we have understood from God’s word—could be a key part of church life.
The Holy Spirit at work
Starting in September 2021, for three Sundays out of four, we have met in small groups of up to 12 people to hear a story from the Bible, and discuss it with five question cards. We have done a Bible overview series, and are now doing a series on the parables of Jesus. The discussion is rich as God’s word reaps its own results. The Spirit convicts, corrects and affirms what we know of God, and we are challenged—everyone has their own testimony of how God is speaking to them through the story.
But the discussion is most rich when people who haven’t heard these stories before are present. The different religious upbringings (or more commonly a lack of religious upbringing) help us all to see each story in a new light. The search for the pertinence of the story to our lives is not made by a preacher, but by the Spirit and through the discussion (shaped by people’s philosophical training). We each leave with something – an idea to consider, a truth about God, repentance to enact or a new action to complete. In addition, the kids engage with the word of God alongside the adults through these stories. They listen, contribute views, then run off to play or draw ideas from the passage for us to admire later. What a joy!
In this highly literate context, telling the story (rather than simply reading it) is helping people engage with the gospel. Those who memorise the narrative dwell deeply on the story as they see the patterns and the way it fits together. William, one of the team members recently had the opportunity to retell the parable of the weeds from Matthew 13 to two of my neighbours.
He said, “It’s amazing that after hearing a story twice, I can then retell it—the stories stick in my head differently when they are told in this format.”
For the listeners, it engages our senses differently: we are present with the storyteller, following the action, being shocked, sensing emotion. As the stories engage our hearts and our heads, we see our confidence in the authority of scripture and the work of the Spirit play out in miraculous ways.
Financial giving enables CMS missionaries like Catherine and Colin to bring the amazing truth of the gospel through storytelling and other means, to people in France and beyond. You can give here today to play your part in God’s work through CMS.