by Samuel Chiang
We all have different mean through which we can share the gospel: at parties, through sports, cards, books, email, social media, or even over liquid bread (beers) or dinner. The list is not exhaustive in the methods available to talk about scripture.
Different methods can be deployed with different individuals or audiences. Our approach needs to be audience-centric. We need tools to orbit around the audience so that it is suitable to him, her, or them.
We often have our favourite tools. My default mode of sharing the gospel is storytelling. In the past, I have blogged about an eight-and-a-half minute story of Creation-to-Church that is effective. It still is. There is nothing quite like inviting people’s permission to tell a story and then to voice that story. In the midst of this practice, I am cooperating and co-creating the spiritual conversation—fully trusting the Holy Spirit and leaving the result up to God.
I have never had anyone who has turned me down on a story about God. In striking up a friendly conversation, I always ask, “Would you like to hear a story about the God that I believe?” The other person always says yes. Then, I launch out into the story.
The length of the story is not short; it requires an intentional relating on both sides. From time to time the storytelling is interrupted, but I request the person to hear more of it, until the end.
More often than not, people are willing to continue without further interruptions. Oftentimes, after the storytelling, the individual(s) might have questions and I simply take them back into the story and ask them what the story says. This crafted story from Creation to Church is full of God’s word, and it is God’s word at work—I am only giving voice to the story.
By pointing people to the content of the story, their minds are much more engaged in the textual-pictures in the story. Living the imagination of the story keeps people interested in the gospel story.
There have also been times when I encounter people from different nations with their own spoken language. This is where I transition into an app to assist me.
In the midst of securing their agreement to view or listen to an app, I show them my family picture and build the relationship. Without fail, they tell me about their families. I allow time for this, but I do not allow their feelings about their family to derail me from opening an app.
We all have our favourite apps. For the tools of the gospel in a different language, I default to either Bible.IS or Jesus Film, both of which have over 1400+ languages easily accessible. I first need to make a decision, however, if they would prefer to listen or watch the app. If they are from a culture that has passed on traditions successfully, I default to listening to audio scripture since they more accustomed to listening. If they are of the millennial generation, I generally invite them into the choice of the media decision.
Finally, if they are driving, I will simply default to listening to audio in their own language.
The 20th century was all about the metal tripod for taking photos; this century is all about the human tripod for creating and displaying videos. After the app is launched I hold it directly in front of the person so he or she can have a good look. As the video of the Jesus Film starts to play in his or her heart language, he or she watches with amazement, sometimes holding his or her hands to his or her chest, or cross folding his or her arms in embrace because they are hearing his or her heart language.
I have found that viewers nearly always translate the content of the film back to me! I respond with a knowing look, and encourage them to keep on viewing it.
Depending on timing and the availability of time, I leave it to the person to view or listen to the content by him or herself and encourage a future conversation. Seldom have the meetings or encounters repeated themselves, and I recognize the role that I have is simply to present the gospel in an effective way. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to pursue, speak, convict, and bring that soul into the kingdom.
Five hundred years ago, the proliferation of the print technology caused a revolution in the Church and society. Now, at this juncture in this century, digital technologies are launching revolutions in the Church and societies. Will you join the new gospel revolution?
Samuel Chiang is president and CEO of The Seed Company. Born in Taiwan, he grew up and worked in Canada and formerly served as COO of TWR. He has authored book chapters in diverse genres including innovation, orality, and persecution.