Telling The Gospel With Story

Learn how to tell stories to illustrate the gospel.

Illustrations by Hayley Newsom

We want to be good communicators of the message of Jesus Christ. But sometimes, even the most skillful presentation fails to connect.

This is where stories can help. They illustrate and simplify spiritual truths.

The following stories will help you communicate the principles of the gospel in a memorable way. Thoughtfully read the illustrations; memorizing them will add another skill to your spiritual toolbox.

The Indian Chief

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This illustration seeks to show the tension between god’s love and His justice. While explaining this, you want to heighten awareness of these two attributes, love and justice, showing how both are satisfied by Jesus’ death.

There once was a particular Indian tribe suffering from the effects of a severe drought. Food was scarce and the members of the tribe were beginning to steal from each other in order to survive.

The chief knew that thievery would be the death of the tribe, so he issued a law saying the next person caught stealing would be taken to the center of the village, tied to a pole and publicly whipped.

The next day, sure enough, a thief was caught. Everyone turned up to see who it was and to witness the punishment.

To everyone’s shock, the thief turned out to be the chief ’s own mother. What was he going to do? He was a good chief, and could not justly ignore the law he had made the day before. He had to be just.

But this was his mother. She was old and frail; the whipping could very well kill her. And he loved her. How could he cause her to suffer? What do you think he should do? Which should win: love or justice?

[Let your listener respond.]

Well, here’s what he does: He orders that her wrists be tied to the pole so the whipping can begin. And he calls the punisher to step forward, whip in hand.

But before he gives the order, he steps in between his mother and the punisher. He stretches his broad shoulders across her frail back and with her body completely protected underneath his own, he orders that the punishment be carried out.

As the cords of the whip fall, they fall on him, and he absorbs the full brunt of her penalty. In that act he was both just, in carrying out the penalty, and loving, by suffering it himself.

That is what Jesus did for us. We are all guilty of breaking his laws.

In Romans 3:23 we read that sin earns a penalty and God is just. The penalty must be paid.

But it’s also clear that God loves us (John 3:16-17). He wants good things for us. He doesn’t want us to be punished.

So here’s what He did. He declared us guilty and ordered that the penalty be paid. Then He came to earth, became a man and hung on a cross for us.

When Jesus was being crucified, He stepped in between us, who are guilty, and God the Father, who demanded justice. He absorbed the blows of our punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

[Now you can connect your listener to How to Know God Personally.]

How Death Shows Love

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The following illustration seeks to inject meaning into what is, for many, an empty phrase: “Jesus died to show that He loved us.” Almost everyone would agree with that, but few have thought through what it means.

Do you know why Jesus had to die? What was the point of his death?

[Let your listener respond. They may say something like, “I don’t know” or “to pay for our sins” or “to show He loves us.”]

Many people say Jesus died to show how much he loved us. But how does his death show love?

Do you have a spouse/mother? Do you love her?

Let’s say you want to show her the full extent of your love, so you go to visit her this weekend and you tell her, “i love you. But i want to show you how much.” Then you drink a shot of poison, killing yourself. What is she thinking at this point?

[Your listener might respond, “That would be psycho.”]

Yes, that doesn’t show love; it’s insanity. So, give me a scenario in which you could die on purpose, but it would really show love for her.

[Allow your listener to suggest a scenario: Just before a car hits her, you jump in the way, push her to safety and get hit. Or, you fight a bad guy to rescue her and die in the process.]

We could come up with a hundred different scenarios, but the consistent thing in each of them would be that, in each case, in order for your death to show love, not insanity, your loved one would have to be in some sort of danger.

It seems that the principle is that death only shows love when the beloved is in grave danger.

If death only shows love when the beloved is in grave danger, and Jesus’ death shows love, what must that mean about our predicament?

[Wait for your listener to identify that we are in danger.]

What are we in danger of? What car was He jumping in front of on our behalf?

[Let your listener respond. Read Romans 6:23 together. Consider a transition to How to Know God Personally.]

Faith over Niagara Falls

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The following story is likely more legend than fact, although based on a real tightrope walker who did cross the niagara falls. Stories about French aerialist “The Great Blondin” have been employed as an analogy over the last several decades of evangelism to demonstrate that faith involves trust. Here’s the story:

A famous tightrope walker strung a wire from one side of the Niagara Falls to the other.

A crowd gathered to watch him attempt this deadly walk.

The silent tension turned to cheers as they watched him walk out, turn and come back.

He asked the crowd, “How many believe that I can walk to the other side and back while pushing a wheelbarrow?”

They shouted, “We believe, we believe!”

The tightropewalker did in fact walk out and back with a wheelbarrow. Upon his return, he asked, “Who believes I could push a man in this wheelbarrow while walking out and back on the wire?”

Again the crowd responded with enthusiastic affirmation.

“Very well, then,” he asked, “Who would like to get in?” The crowd fell silent.

Trusting Christ is not simply assenting to the facts of the gospel message. There is a decision that implies actually getting into the wheelbarrow.

Are you in the crowd or in the wheelbarrow? Spiritually speaking, what do you think it takes to apply this to Jesus?

[Let your listener respond. Consider a transition to How to Know God Personally.]

Adapted with permission from The Compass, ©2007-2010 Campus Crusade for Christ. For more, visit http://crupress.campuscrusadeforchrist.com/green.