The Gospel is a Story
It was not until I got to college and met with the Navigators that I began to learn how to present the gospel in a structured way. God used the Navigators to teach me discipline in reading, studying, and memorizing the word of God. The more than 1000 verses I memorized have been instrumental in my spiritual walk. When faced with trials and temptations, appropriate verses popped into my head and I felt the power of God’s presence and his truth helping me gain victory.
This was 40 years ago. Since then it has taken me four decades to correct the problems that verse memorization caused. Many times the verse is cut out of a passage and memorized out of context. Their gospel message is composed of a group of verses taken from various contexts to form a structured presentation. There is no denying that God used this approach to help me lead a number of people to Christ.
Compared to before college and in more recent years, my effectiveness suffered. I often attributed that to failure, forgetfulness, lack of fervent prayer or sin in my life. Certainly any of these factors can hinder our spiritual walk and our effective witness.
I saw quite a few people come to Christ by sharing the gospel as a love story and offering people a relationship with Jesus. It worked.
I finally put my fingers on the problem. I now believe this is the reason the Insider Movement is what it is. The gospel is presented as a set of facts or truths. The Four Spiritual Laws were used by God mightily and I personally have led people to Christ using them. But I noticed over time that those who are responding tend to come from Christian backgrounds. When sharing the same truths with Muslims the results were not as encouraging.
Why? And why did it take me decades to find out? The answer is simple. I have been taught a construct, a paradigm that does not touch the hearts of Muslims. For they are not inclined to be drawn to intellectual facts and truths.
Does this explain perhaps why you may have shared the gospel many times with meager results?
Increasingly in the last 20 years or so, I have noticed that Muslims are drawn to the story of God. Jesus is part of the story. Every person is included in God’s story.
A few days ago, February, 2010 I sat with a young woman from N Africa in her country. She was a seeker. I began with Genesis chapter one. She and I read the story of creation with only a few comments. I stressed that God’s creation was good and that we are the crown of his creation, made in God’s image.
For over an hour I was working my way to Genesis twelve, the calling of Abraham and the three fold blessing promised him. By this time Maha grasped a clear picture of the purpose of creation; the fall, its causes and effects, and now she is beginning to learn about the Covenant and God’s great plan for the restoration of the image of God marred by sin.
This was not about how to receive forgiveness of sins or how to be rescued from hell. It is about God’s love and his sacrificial work on behalf of his creation. A lesson about Jesus the best expression of the Love of God was appropriate here and that is what I proceeded to talk about.
Next comes a survey of the entire Old Testament, the era of the judges, the kings and the prophets. Maha began to be fascinated by the richness of the Bible. “The Bible is set in history.” I explained, “It is not about some romantic ideas and poetical musings. It is truth from beginning to end. God entered history and took the hand of his people and rescued them from slavery. The story of Abraham’s obedience to God and willingness to sacrifice his son was at the center of God’s plan of salvation. He was showing his love and mercy to his people by providing a substitute. God did that for Abraham’s son as an illustration of what he will be doing one day through His own Son. The history of blood sacrifice was at the center of the Old Testament story.
That took about two hours. The last of the four hours of this long session was focused on Jesus and the necessity of the cross for salvation. She had by now already understood redemption by blood sacrifices. She understood God’s provision of a substitute for Abraham’s son.
Maha is now ready to enter into a relationship with the Living God through the one and only means of salvation, Jesus Christ, God’s son and our Lord.
Her entry into the kingdom was glorious. After kneeling and accepting Christ, she stood up and gave hugs to all four people witnessing this celebration of a new life with the angels in Heaven. (Luke 15:10)
Her prayer in her own words including the steps I shared with her: Admission of guilt, Confession of sin, Repentance, inviting Christ to enter her life and accepting him as her savior. She also told God she is His forever and she will follow him faithfully the rest of her life.
It was not repeat these words after me and you will be saved. I almost never tell people what to say in prayer. This for me is a BIG test of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Some prayers I have heard from the mouths of some, could only have come from the Spirit of God. This is the evidence that something deep happened in the heart and not only some quick fix prayer.
The gospel is not merely a set of facts structured in a logical progression of thoughts. It is a story of God’s romantic love toward his creation and his condescending love that caused him to sacrifice his one and only son to establish a relationship with Maha and adopt her as his precious daughter.
This is Biblical Missiology put to work. Praise God.
(This is the most recent experience sharing the story with a Muslim. I have been using this “method” for a long time with good results.)