Question: Can you tell me how The Story that Matters was written? It seems like such a short booklet. Can it explain the gospel clearly?
Answer: Here’s some background to the booklet that may help you understand its architecture and purpose. The Story that Matters was created with at least three important considerations.
First, the concise nature of the booklet enables it to be used for mass distribution or as a give-away on a personal basis—this for less than the cost of a greeting card.
Secondly, the booklet was designed to be read in under an hour. We did this to appeal to those who may not like reading but will read a small booklet. To achieve a quick reading time, we had to balance an accurate and sufficient gospel presentation with a succinct word count. If you have read one of our bigger books like By This Name, you will see that we do have resources that explain the gospel message in much fuller detail. ForThe Story that Matters, we were conscious of every word. So we distilled the good news, doing our best to ensure that the key concepts were explained without adding bulk to such a small booklet.
The booklet was designed to give people with no knowledge of the Bible enough information to understand the four irreducible minimums of the gospel:
- A holy God
- A helpless sinner
- A sufficient substitute
- A personal faith
In other words, the booklet explains who God is, man’s sin nature, God’s provision of a perfect substitute, and how people appropriate the salvation offered by Jesus through a personal faith. At the back of the booklet, the reader is then invited to continue the learning journey by reading By This Name.
Compared to other tracts (many of them much shorter), The Story that Matters contains a lot more information, but we are well aware that we were being succinct in order to preserve the booklet’s brevity.
The third key consideration was that we designed the book to be read by the broadest audience possible. To this end, we strived to use a level of English that was easy for anyone to read, especially for readers who are learning English as an additional language. We used Wycliffe Associates’ EasyEnglish, a form of English with very controlled vocabulary and grammar structure. EasyEnglish makes it possible for people with limited English to read and understand the gospel message. So, for example, in place of the word “demon,” we use the phrase “Satan’s bad angels.”
These two considerations resulted in the 64-page booklet. The content sticks to the absolute essentials—the core information that would help a person put his or her trust in Jesus for salvation. After that, the reader (or the believer helping the reader) can strengthen the foundation by reading the Bible or another book that explains more about the character of God and the nature of salvation.
Imagine this: you have less than an hour to explain the gospel to a friend who has not read the Bible before. What information should you cover? What points should you focus on? What would you say about God in a limited amount of time in order for your friend to learn enough information to declare, “I trust Christ to be my substitute, dying on the cross as a full and sufficient payment for my sins. I know that because I trust Christ, when I die I will be with him in Heaven forever.” That is what The Story that Matters strives to achieve in 45 minutes.
If you had more time, we would recommend using either By This Name (which takes about 14 hours to read through) or The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus (which takes 11 hours to read through). Those books go much deeper and explain more about God’s character (his holiness, the Trinity, etc.); more about man’s condition (sinful, helpless, etc.) and more details about the Law, the sacrifices, justification, righteousness, faith and more.
I hope this explanation helps you understand why The Story that Matters is written the way that it is. There are those who have read it and have come to faith in Jesus. There are so-called Christians who have read it and realized they had never understood the gospel before. Then there are those who have read it, and hungered for more and go on to read the Bible for themselves or some of our other books. Whenever any of these things happen, we thank God for we know that the booklet has helped someone with no knowledge of Scripture gain a succinct overview of the core message of the Bible.