By Karen L. Willoughby
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (BP) – When Grant Lovejoy was a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a student’s comment led him to the conclusion that two-thirds of the world’s population would not understand a clear gospel presentation even if it were given to them in their language.
[img_assist|nid=7164|title=Grant Lovejoy|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=67|height=100]“It was an ‘aha’ moment,” Lovejoy said at The Gathering for Spiritual Awakening, which took place at Southern Hills Baptist Church March 2-4 for Native Peoples from across North America. The title of his two-hour keynote address: Bible Storying.
It was a concept particularly interesting to his Native American listeners, who come from an oral culture and thought, rather than the abstract thinking of gospel-spreading Westerners.
“We have spent most of the time imposing our oppressive and culturally destructive ways on tribal people,” Lovejoy said. “We’re like King Saul, who said, ‘Wear my armor’ to David. David used what God gave him, and that was more than enough in the hand of God.”
The Bible is basically a story of God relating to His people, Lovejoy said. “If the Bible is a story, why is a sermon a list? Let’s reclaim the story quality of the Bible. Stories have an appeal to people who would never listen to a sermon.”
People across the world speak 6,913 languages, but only 450 of those languages have a complete Bible, Lovejoy said. The only way the others are going to hear the gospel is through spoken communication.
He modeled Bible storying by telling of the men who removed the roof of a house to get their friend close to Jesus.
“Start by greeting them in a culturally-sensitive way,” Lovejoy said to his 350 or more listeners as he described the process of teaching people a Bible story in such a way that they can pass it on to others. “Let the people know you care for them.”
He asked the group playing the part of villagers what they had talked about “last time,” then opened his Bible as he said, “This is a story from God’s word.” He explained what the story was about, and then told the story.
“I’m curious,” Lovejoy said to the group after he had completed the story-telling and closed his Bible. “What do you like about this story?” Following some discussion, he asked, “Was there anything hard to understand or to accept?” More discussion.
Someone asked a question and he responded to the group, “I have my ideas, but what do you think?” He elaborated a bit on the responses he received, and at one point led the group to clarify one person’s mis-statement.
“Let me ask a couple other questions,” Lovejoy continued in his role-playing, and responded to one off-topic question by saying, “That’s an interesting observation. We’ll have to talk about it later. Right now, what do you think was going on in the room below when the men were tearing out the roof?”
When the discussion time was over, Lovejoy led the group through the story again, line by line, with them finishing sentences, such as, “The four friends” and the group’s response, “took the man up the stairs.”
“What happens next?” He asked, and used hand motions to remind his listeners. “Say that with me,” he said before repeating a short scripture passage.
If there would have been time, Lovejoy said, he would have concluded with his listeners pairing off and repeating the story to each other, so they would remember it and be able to share it with others.
“We want to build an ethos to protect God’s Word,” Lovejoy said. “We use multiple techniques that help a storying group preserve biblical accuracy as they retell the story, with the Bible serving as the final authority."