Last Sunday I spoke about how we can effectively tell the whole story of what God is doing in human history in a way which engages with today’s audience. Somebody commented that it would be helpful to have a brief summary of the main points of what I was saying. I would say I am not an evangelist, though I do seek opportunities to speak of Jesus in everyday life. But as a preacher I have spent some time reflecting on what is the essence of the Christian message and how it resonates, or doesn’t, with our current culture. So I offer this in the hope it will be helpful to some.
Telling God’s Story
All good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We need to know the whole story in order to tell it well, even if sometimes we only get to tell a small part of it.
The beginning of the story
- The story begins with God, who brings all life into being, and is still the source of all life
- We should avoid letting the controversies of exactly how he did so, and how we should read the Genesis accounts, get in the way of telling the story. We should always be honest when there are parts we don’t understand or questions we cannot answer. It can be useful to know of some good resources for those for whom this is an issue.
- Sometimes with those who refuse to believe there is a God, it can be helpful to ask them to allow you to proceed on the basis that there is, and see how the whole story fits together.
- The beginning of the story must also include an account of “sin”.
- The word “sin” is usually unhelpful with those outside the church, as it brings to mind condemnation of particular acts.
- It is important to distinguish between “sins”, which are things we do or don’t do which are wrong, and “sin”, which is the fundamental brokenness and damaged nature of the world which introduces a barrier between us and God.
- This idea that the world is damaged can be a good connection point with a range of people. Looking at the world it is hard to disagree that it is broken, and many will accept when pushed that they play their part in it’s continued brokenness.
The middle of the story
- The Bible tells a story of people’s continued brokenness, and the hurt and damage they cause to other people and to creation.
- Alongside that there are continual reminders that God will not allow this to continue for ever, that he will step in to fix it. Increasingly it becomes clear this will happen through one individual.
- As we get to the story of Jesus we find he is to be that person, the one who has come to save the world from sin, to repair the brokenness and restore our relationship with God.
- We see how human self interest causes people to oppose Jesus and put him to death, but the narrative twist is that this turns out to be his hour of triumph, as in his death he carries all the brokenness of the world so that as he dies sin and death are destroyed. Three days later he rises from death to a new life which he offers to all.
The end of the story
- We are not yet at the end of the story, and it is important to acknowledge the world is still damaged and it often doesn’t look like sin has been defeated.
- We are sometimes uncomfortable talking about the end of the story, and “heaven”, for all sorts of reasons.
- But we must do to complete the story, because what we have here and now is not a good enough ending. God must be working towards something more spectacular.
- Again it can be best to avoid details and controversies, but to communicate the central story of a future where God lives again with humanity in a renewed heavens and earth, where the damage to the world has been finally fixed.
- This future is assured for all those who accept that this story we have told can be their story in Jesus.
- This gives us hope in our current lives, that even though we experience suffering and pain, one day all things will be put right.
- The end of the story must also include an invitation to recognise that this is the story which God is writing, and that there is a part for each one of us to play within the ongoing story of his dealings with human beings and creation.
If you would be interested in viewing the talk on which these notes are based, it is available as part of this service (starts about 30 minutes in).