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Prepare to share

CMS worker J is preparing for ministry in South East Asia. She has used Bible storytelling in various ministry contexts, at church and on university campuses, with adults and children. She shares how God has been at work through this method of witness.

One of the great joys of cross-cultural ministry, whether in Australia or elsewhere, is the stunning realisation that God speaks to the deepest parts of humanity, regardless of who we are and where we’re from. Communicating the gospel across culture and language can be challenging though. This is why I love storytelling the Bible, and I’m learning that every step of the ‘story’ is precious.

The process of preparation

The process of preparing to tell a story requires delving into the nuance of language and emotion within the text. I want to examine every Bible translation and language available to me, in order to select the spoken phrase and tone that will be most simple yet accurate to God’s written word.

Then comes the practice of telling a Bible story. I try it out on myself first. I draw it, I voice-record it, I use my hands and facial expressions in whatever way feels most genuine. I’m particular about getting it just right, so I try to make mistakes early and learn from them. But this is just the beginning.

The Spirit at work

The next step is to tell the story to someone else. Unless I’m prepared to share the story with another person, even as a rehearsal, I’ll never really be ready. And that’s when I notice the work of the Holy Spirit. Because nobody sees or hears the same things in a Bible story. What I may have taken from the story is often different to what resonates with others hearing the story. Yet by listening to God together, what they see can be added to my understanding of who God is and what he has done for us in Christ Jesus. I find my own appreciation of God enriched by their perspective.

Let me share an example.

I once had the chance to join a group who were sharing chronological Bible stories over a university semester with international students. Two students from South East Asia came almost every week to hear the next instalment of God’s story. We had talked our way through Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses, laws of blessing, curses, and words of promise. We were up to David when the reaction of one student surprised me. I had told the story of God confronting David with his sin through the prophet Nathan telling him a parable (2 Samuel 12:1-14).

Connie*, a self-proclaimed atheist, reflected on this story and declared: “There’s just no-one who is really clean, is there?”

When I think about sin, I often use words like right and wrong, guilty and innocent, condemnation, justification. Connie used different words. In fact, she used David’s own vocabulary without knowing it. She saw that sin means we need God’s cleansing.

“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2)

I believe God made the truth of sin real for her in that moment.

There is great power in storytelling the Bible within our own culture and across cultures, for both you and me. Whenever we take God’s words upon our lips, he reveals himself more deeply to us, together. In doing so he demonstrates how his gospel crosses every human barrier of comprehension.

* Name changed for privacy reasons. 

PRAY

Ask God to be at work through his Spirit as CMS workers, like J, share the Bible through storytelling.