Home Voices The Exchange How To Tell a Jesus Story

How To Tell a Jesus Story

That’s it—it’s that simple! Each time you gather, invite someone else to share the Jesus story. Give them these guidelines to help them along.

Facilitating the Conversation

As we share Jesus stories, people who are not quite comfortable getting “preached at” on Sunday mornings find space to ask questions and join the discussion. People respond with personal insights, questions, and challenges. The “proclaimer” shifts into the role of “facilitator.” The engagement draws from the collective wisdom of the group. It is modeled after Jesus, the master teacher, who asked more questions than he gave answers. Jesus told lots of stories and parables that invited deeper questions and reflection.

Here’s some keys to facilitating the conversation: 

1. Don’t Dominate

Once you have delivered the story, your role now shifts into that of facilitator. Now you are mining for the questions and insights of others in the group. The genius is not in the room, the genius is the room.1

2. Honor Each Contribution

There are no right or wrong answers; each person’s contribution must be valued and celebrated. Give each person the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes hecklers show up, some come to scoff, but they often stay to pray. If people issue challenging or undermining comments, honor their contribution but then reframe it, “that’s an interesting way to think about that, here’s how Christians have interpreted that…” “this is a complicated topic, people have a variety of ways they understand this, here’s my thoughts… who else has a perspective on this…” “it sounds like this is something you are really wrestling with; can we stay after the group so we can talk it out together?” The key is not to shut down or exclude, but also protect others in the circle.

3. Spread the Love

Some folks can get really excited and want to make lots of contributions, let them, but try not to let one or two people dominate the entire time. You can do this with simply saying, “I can see you are really passionate about this, who else wants to jump in?” “let’s hear from someone who hasn’t shared yet” “before you double or triple dip, let’s give everyone a chance to share.” You could also set a boundary up front, “let’s all limit our sharing to 3-5 minutes and make sure each person has an opportunity to share before we double dip!”

4. Do No Harm

As facilitators we do have a responsibility to minimize people potentially being harmed. If someone is being particularly rude or disruptive, you may need to turn the group over to another teammate and have a side conversation. Sometimes you will need to be direct, “thanks for sharing your perspective, do you realize how that might be harmful to others here?” “that’s not really the focus of this Jesus story, can we talk about that offline?” “I can feel that this is a big issue for you, can you stay after with me so I can get a better understanding?” In extreme cases you might have to call in outside support or law enforcement—though that would be exceptionally unusual. The key principle is to protect the members of the group.  

Conclusion: Why Jesus Stories? 

Here are some key advantages to proclamation in this form: 

  • Anyone can lead these Bible discussions. It’s an “every member” ministry (1 Pet. 2:9).
  • Enquirers can easily join in, even if they are agnostic, atheist, or “spiritual but not religious” (Acts 8:26-40).
  • Scripture does the evangelism and disciple making, as the Holy Spirit works on each person’s heart at his or her own pace (Rom. 10:17).
  • Christians share their faith almost without knowing it. You don’t have to be a long-term disciple or seminary trained to tell a story and ask some questions (Matt. 25:37-38).
  • Seekers see how the Bible and the Christian community impact life (Jn. 8:30).
  • Leadership is shared with newcomers, increasing their commitment to the group (Jn. 4:29).
  • New Christians learn how to study the Bible, apply it to their lives, share it with their friends, and find helpful resources (Jn. 4:39-42).
  • If the leader moves on, the group has the means to keep going. Sustainability is built in (1 Thess. 2:17).

This helps empower laity and expand congregations to become a constellation of little communities spread across an entire area. These gatherings are distributed across a seven day work week, meeting at different times and places, making church more accessible to those not currently connected with any congregation.2

If you find these ideas resonating in your bones, here’s two resources that go much deeper. In Fresh Expressions in a Digital Age Rosario Picardo and I provide an entire chapter titled “From Monologues to Dialogues.” Additionally, in Fresh Expressions of the Rural Church Tyler Kleeberger and I devote an additional chapter to “Preaching Non-Downloadable Content.”

If we can help you implement these resources, please reach out at michaeladambeck.com.

1 My thanks to Alan Hirsch, Rich Robinson, and colleagues of the Movement Leaders Collective for this insight.
2 My thanks to Dwight Zscheile and friends at Faith + Lead for helpful insight in developing this practice.