I recently sold a copy of Paul Little’s book, “How to Give Away Your Faith”, on eBay. While preparing the book for shipping, I wrapped it in a sheet of newspaper containing an article entitled, “We Do a Poor Job of Telling the Story.” The article detailed the efforts of Iowa’s economic development department to help Iowans “get over the prevailing humble attitude about the state.” Apparently, the reputation of the State of Iowa, on the national level, is not necessarily negative as much as it is “non-existent.”
As I wrapped the book I thought about the fact the Church has been given the responsibility of telling what some have justifiably called, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. Sadly, it might be said that we do a poor job of telling that story. The message of the Gospel is a message that needs telling in order for it to have any impact. The need for Gospel impact is as great today as it has ever been; perhaps greater. Yet it seems as though those who are telling it, and doing so clearly, are fewer and fewer. In many parts of our society, the reputation of the Gospel is not necessarily negative as much as it is non-existent.
I once sat in the presence of a world renowned evangelist whose ministry emphasis is not merely introducing people to Christ but on equipping other believers to do the same … to “tell the story.” I’ll never forget his stinging indictment of the prevailing problem when he said, “Never have I seen so many people who were ready to come to Christ while at the same time so many believers who are unable and unwilling to tell them about Christ.”
It seems as though the story we are more interested in telling has not so much to do with the Gospel itself as it does with how finely we can differentiate between our view of the Gospel and that which is held by others in the Church. So much time and energy is spent exploring semantic nuances and splitting theological hairs pertaining to one particular view of the Gospel, as opposed to another, that we have left off the actual telling of it. Exploring semantic nuances and theological hairs may well be important but they do not rise to the level of telling the story itself. Any importance they do have pales in light of the fact that millions of untold souls languish in spiritual darkness while those who should be telling are debating instead. The baby is starving while its parents vigorously debate in which color of bottle to put the milk. Surely this displeases the One who commissioned the Church to tell the story!
The primary focus of church planting is simply to “tell the story” in the next community so that those who have not heard it might be given the opportunity to respond in faith. What a refreshing concept! We all would do well to personally adopt such a focus.