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Monday, June 22, 2009

Lee Strobel validates the story approach to sharing faith

I read the article "Changing the Face of Apologetics" in Christianity Today's latest issue with great interest. As many of you know, Lee Strobel is best known for his books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator. Strobel is a former atheist that came to faith in Christ when he decided to put his investigative journalism skills to use by subjecting the New Testament to the same rigorous standards he had applied to his profession as a journalist. His book The Case for Christ tells the story of his conversion to Christianity after he investigated the New Testament claims of Christ's resurrection. Countless people have come to faith because of this groundbreaking book.

Here's the part of the article that interested me. In his interview with Christianity Today, Strobel talks about how apologetics (which is the art of defending the Christian faith intellectually)has changed over time and now apologists (defenders of the faith) are much more likely to take a story approach in discussing the faith with seekers. In Strobel's own words:
They have become more relational, more story-driven. Josh McDowell would go on college campuses and describe why to trust the Bible. And people would come to faith in droves. Then they stopped coming to faith in so many numbers, and he didn't know why. And now he takes a story approach. 'You know,' he says, 'I was the son of the town drunk. This is how it affected my life and my relationship with (my dad). This is what prompted me to seek spiritually. This is the evidence I found. This is how my life was changed. This is how I reconciled with my father.' So it becomes a story.

That's what my ministry is about. I tell my story. I was an atheist. I scoffed. My wife became a Christian. It prompted me to investigate. Here's the evidence I found, how I received Christ, the difference it's made. It's a story. And I found that in postmodern America, people often are wiling to engage on the level of story.

Why does this interest me so much? Because here is one of the top defenders of the Christian faith telling his fellow believers that stories are the key to sharing the Christian faith. Since September of last year, my wife and I's ministry took a very decisive direction in making story telling the key to what we do in other nations. Since September of last year, we have aligned ourselves with a movement that emphasizes telling the simple stories of the Bible as the greatest need on the mission field today.

Rather than going into countries and preaching topical sermons, with three point outlines that all begin with the letter "C", we go in and teach pastors, laypeople, and missionaries how to take a simple story in the Bible, tell the story the way it's written in the Bible, and facilitate discussion around the story. We believe that telling Bible stories and facilitating discussion around the stories is the best method we have ever seen for evangelizing and making disciples. This touches on both the story approach and the relational approach that Strobel is publicly endorsing in America's premier evangelical publication. This is big.

Lee Strobel didn't exactly come out and endorse telling Bible stories as the next great movement in evangelism, but he didn't have to. Because if telling personal stories has worked so well in the ministries of some of America's top evangelists, how much more effective do you think that it will be telling God's stories that He put in His Word?

Think about it.

For more information on this radical new approach to missions, check out this website.


Gary Arnold said...

Aaron, in "The Unexpected Adventure" by Strobel and Mark Middleberb, Strobel says "My evangelistic style is testimonial; in other words, I tend to TELL THE STORY of my journey of faith...." It really grabbed me, like you, that this former journalist, so driven by facts and figures, has a "testimonial" style of witnessing. My next book will be "The Contagious Christian", which describes the other five styles. I already know my style is testimonial, too. But God has shaped our personalities and lives to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope..."

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Thank you for your feedback Gary. I haven't read the book "Contagious Christian" yet, but I saw the author speak a few years ago at a conference. He was very good. Let me know what you think about the book.