The model of evangelism has shifted. Gone are the days when a missionary or preacher stands up and tells people what to think. No longer are we baptizing people by the thousands at a time. Nor can we depend on Billy Graham crusades to “save” the world.
Nowadays, evangelism looks more like Acts 8 through the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. These two characters are from distant lands and engaged in conversation about God. Or they can be simply called storytellers of the faith.
Storytelling is an ancient practice that still engages people today. We can use the actions of Phillip and the Ethiopian to work through a new model of outreach that I have coined “story evangelism.”
It’s a simple three-steps that includes introductions, ask a question and swap stories. I tried this process out in my sermon on this story a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I did the normal unpacking of the text to set up this process. Then I turned to the congregation and said, “Here is what you are going to do.”
Now as a storyteller, I have asked this congregation to do all sorts of things from the wave to giant beach balls to even playing hide and seek to engage in a Bible story. The words “here is what you are going to do” is nothing new to them.
I asked people as they were able to stand up and find someone they did not know. I informed those with mobility issues to stay seated and someone would come to them. Then they were to follow the cues of Phillip and the Ethiopian:
Ask a question.
As a story prompter, I asked that they share one thing they know about God’s love as they swapped stories. One woman stopped me at the end of the service. She said she almost did not make it to church as her dog had been sick. But that she was so glad that she did! She met someone new, a young student. As they swapped stories about her sick pet, she was reminded by the student that God promised to be with her always. That’s all this woman needed to hear that morning, and it only took 60 seconds.
We are storytelling people, and we love a good story. Churches need to give people time and space to practice storytelling their faith with each other. People need to be able to articulate “why” God’s story is important to them. It’s the only way the church will grow – story by story.
Why is this important? Because what Jesus says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” This is what God promises to do. Just as God did with Phillip and the Ethiopian, God will do what God does best with us, too. We just need to step out of our comfort zones for 60 seconds to speak God’s love with others. God will do the rest.