WHY "STORY TELLING" IS INEFFECTIVE FOR MAKING DISCIPLES
One of my fondest memories of being a dad was telling my sons stories that I made up at bedtime. Of course we would also tell them some of the old time favorites, as well as about the great events documented in the Bible. However, while they were very young, sometimes I would just make up stories out of thin air. I did this by first allowing them to create their own characters, and once they described them to me then I would incorporate them into these spontaneously fabricated stories. It was always a lot of fun. However, my sons are in college now; consequently, they don’t ask me to tell them bedtime stories anymore. They are mature young men now, so thank heaven for miracles. However, recently I saw an article about the importance of preaching from a “Christian meta-narrative” in order reach a “post-literature”generation. In other words, if we want to reach “the next generation” effectively, then we should attempt to do so through the art of “story telling” rather than declaration statements of propositional truth found in the Scriptures. There are several problems with this assertion. However, the greatest is that it ignores the reality that Holy Spirit supernaturally honors God’s word whenever it is publicly proclaimed. It is through God’s proclaimed word (i.e., preaching as opposed to “story telling”) that he affects change in the hearts and minds of those listening—both sinners and saints; consequently, the scriptures are what the Holy Spirit primarily uses to reach people with the gospel.
The reality is, however, that there is nothing new about this recent assertion. I heard this same old line 2 decades ago while I was involved in college ministry. Back then the goal was to keep their attention, to “memorize” or entertain them if you will. The problem with relying upon “stories” to people with the gospel is that it tends to produce what I refer to as“bedtime Christians.” What are bedtime Christians you ask? Well, they’re kind of an oxymoron; more specifically, they refer to themselves in one manner, but the way they live and what they believe actually contradicts their professions about themselves. In other words, they call themselves Christians, but the fact is that they don’t follow the Lord Jesus Christ at all. Below are some telltale characteristics of bedtime Christians.
· Bedtime Christians have Bibles but never read them or take them to church in order to learn what the Spirit of God is trying to say to them through the scriptures.
· Bedtime Christians think the Bible is full of myths and stories that didn’t really happen.
· Bedtime Christians think that the Bible has been translated too many times for it to be an accurate record of what was originally written.
· Bedtime Christians think the Bible is full of ancient stories and events; consequently it’s not really relevant to their “modern”or “post-modern” world.
· Bedtime Christians never effectively learn howto use the scriptures while communicating the gospel.
· Bedtime Christians aren’t interested in Sunday school, home Bible study groups, or discipleship training.
· Bedtime Christians think the Bible is basically an old book suggesting some good basic moral values.
And worst of all:
· Bedtime Christians think that Christianity is supposed to be entertaining rather than about a life changing relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, Paul encouraged Timothy, who lived in a largely oral and illiterate culture, that “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4.13). And in his last letter before he died for the cause of Christ also wrote to his beloved disciple, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2.15). And lest we forget, the context in which Paul and Timothy ministered in was entirely pagan and largely a world that depended word of mouth hearsay for the dissemination of information. In other words, in that day people for the most part depended upon “sound bites” for the news—sound familiar? It seems that Paul’s exhortation about how to carry out ministry and how to effectively witness for Christ aptly applies to the world in which we now live. It seems that Paul’s admonition to Timothy was to educate others as to what God actually said in the scriptures, rather than dumb them down by using “entertaining”summaries and stories from God’s word, or worse yet, modern stories that the“speakers” think reflect “concepts” that are consistent with God’s word. Paul didn’t recommend that Timothy develop his own “Cliff Notes” about the Bible, but to boldly and faithfully read and explain the scriptures to those who would listen. Moreover, Paul went to great pains to write down theological declarations and explanations of propositional truth not only for Timothy’s personal benefit, but also as a tool for him to use as he discipled others—just as he also did for the churches at Ephesus, Galatia,Corinth, and, well you get the point. So the next time some tells you that the church needs to stop “preaching” so much,or emphasizing “doctrines,” and that the way to reach people today is through telling them heart felt stories, then ask them this: where did they get the idea that you couldn’t teach sound doctrine while relating stories from the Bible? In other words, when did doctrine and story telling become mutually exclusive? Moreover, when did Jesus’ model of proclaiming declarative statements of truth about God, faith, holiness, devotion, and eternal damnation stop being our model for ministry?
The greatest danger regarding this modern model of “ministering”through entertaining stories is that it only takes a better storyteller to undue whatever good you think you have done. If we think we are doing our congregations a favor by entertaining them with stories rather than discipling them on why they should trust and learn how to effective use the Bible in evangelism, then were are greatly mistaken. The bottom line is that our churches are currently overrun with bedtime Christians because too many pastors and “teachers” have been giving them a steady diet of Christian-like “stories”instead of faithfully reading, teaching, and preaching the entire council of God’s holy word.
Copyright, ©Monte Shanks 2016