Sunday, November 13, 2011

Telling Stories

“He used many such stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they were able to understand.” Mark 4:34

One of the courses I took at Moody Bible Institute was called Story Telling. Little did I know how valuable that course would be. When  my turn came to perform before the class I told a Winnie the Pooh story. I love stories. I enjoyed reading Dr. Seuss's book, "Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose" to my grandsons so much last week that I went and bought my own copy. It's a great story!

My dad was a stellar story teller. Sometimes he would be called on to tell stories. Whenever I got afraid at night, which was frequent, he’d settle me down with fictitious silly stories. I often observed him telling stories in evangelistic encounters and be amazed at how spell bound his listeners were. It was clear that the Somalis he ministered among for fifty years listened best by hearing stories. Opposition to Biblical truths was not as strong if conveyed through the medium of a story.

I learned the story telling craft from dad. He modelled it so superbly that I desired to do the same. I’m not just referring to telling Bible stories but any kind of story; allegorical, fictitious, true, etc. - anything to catch people’s attention to make them think through some truth. Muslim men, women and children love hearing stories. Many of them come from oral cultures where sitting around hearing stories or poetry is a favorite past time. Westerners turn on the TV, watch movies or read books but often by pass hearing and telling stories.  Story telling is an excellent way to move into teaching Biblical truths slowly. Muslims often can’t take hearing direct Biblical truths right away. When we extend home hospitality it is both interesting and valuable to listen to their stories and then to share our stories.

After briefly sharing the Biblical story of redemption with an educated Iranian couple, Hussein asked incredulously, “Who on earth would have come up with a story like that?” “God did!” I replied. It is helpful to be able to tell the whole Bible story of redemption and salvation from Genesis to Revelation in 5 to 15 minutes or so. Give a sweeping concise panoramic story of God’s great plan. Try it. Don’t be afraid to get dramatic. They will love it. Sometimes we dive into the middle of the story but the beginning has been left out. We know it well but they don’t. If we observe that our Muslim friend is listening intently then make the story longer. I also think it is great to leave an element of mystery to our story telling by promising them we’ll tell chapter two on the next visit. Why not concentrate more on telling stories and less on knowing all the objections Muslims have and arguments for your rebuttal? It’s not often people will argue with a story. Stories are powerful.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful redemption story and that my Muslim friends are part of it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.