This project was birthed with a little bit of pain on my part. Let me explain. My wife and I are missionaries in the Andes Mountains Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador. We like many others, had notions of what evangelism and discipleship looked like and how it was “meant” to be done. This post is not about the intricacies of discipleship or evangelism, as I have written extensively on those subjects here on this blog. Instead, this post is about passing on Jesus’ story and teachings in a way that can be received better in our multi-cultural contexts and perhaps in some of yours.
One day, in a pretty remote town, we were sitting with a family in their home and by their invitation, “teaching” them the things of Jesus. On this particular day, we stopped for a moment and asked if there were any questions. One amongst them asked a question about the trinity, specifically, if the Holy Spirit was a person, or just a force or a power. One of us, not me, began answering the question “theologically.” Believe me, when it was my turn to help answer the question, I was going to start listing out all of the verses and have them follow along in their bibles so that they could see for themselves the truth of what I would propose. While the first person was answering their question, I began to see an all too familiar glazed and lost look in their eyes. My first thought, “how rude!” They should be paying attention! After all, this is “The Word of God.”
You see, I am a teacher, it’s one of my principal giftings. I was getting frustrated with them for not getting it. Perhaps it was the person who was answering their question, perhaps it was the audience not being sufficiently and spiritually mature to receive such things, perhaps it was neither. Then came my turn…
With a quiver full of theological arrows, I was going to do it right! I would make them understand! And then it happened… My wife and I had been discussing using stories instead of hard core teachings for a few days prior. But, I’m not a story teller. I didn’t want to tell stories, I wanted to do what I do very well, namely instruct others in the “finer points” of the Christian Faith.
I can’t begin to describe the immense conviction and turmoil in my heart when I began to open my mouth in “my usual method.” It was if I was consciously being born again. What seemed like a thoughtful pause to our audience, was for me, a long raging battle and a tumultuous mind-shift. I thought for a moment and then my mouth opened… with this story:
There was a time after Jesus’ death when his new followers got together and were committed to helping each other, caring for one another, and focusing on Jesus together. This was hard for them because the government was still worried about Christians getting together and stirring up trouble. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
There was a married couple who wanted to be part of them and sold their land too, but they decided to be a little tricky. They conspired amongst themselves to hold back a portion of the money and pretend like they gave it all. When they brought it to the Apostles, Peter, one of them, said, “Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money still yours? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”
“Notice,” I said, “Peter said that they lied to the Holy Spirit, and later Peter called the Holy Spirit ‘God.’ I then said, “You can not lie to a wall, or electricity, or even the wind. ”You can not lie to a force or a power, you can only lie to a person.”
In spite of my first and feeble attempt at story telling, they Got it! They followed this story along with great intensity and interest. They understood this theological concept and I survived telling a “story.”
After that day, I started telling more and more stories and I am constantly thinking of ways to tell story biblical concepts.
And so, I thought, how can I create a framework of stories centered on the idea of relaying theological truths for the benefit of others? Catechism! Yes, that was it! Almost… We can’t just Catechize people. While effective in it’s own right, Catechism was more effective in a previous culture and time. For those who are illiterate, verbal learners, bored, or post-modern in their thinking, why not tell stories? I chose the Westminster Shorter Catechism as that framework.
If you are a story teller and would like to join others in “The Catechism by Story Project,” then let me know via comment on this blog post or by joining The Catechism by StoryProject Facebook Group. If you’re a blogger, think of this as a chain or synchroblog that will be published and a great resource for the tellers and hearers of stories.
If you would like to join the project, you will be assigned a Question and Answer numbered between 1 and 107 from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Your number will be assigned according to the order in which you joined the facebook group or notified me otherwise. Your challenge will be to convey the truth your assigned question and answer by story.
If you have any questions, let me know…