Within a few short weeks, pine and holly will be adorning front steps, carols will be coming across the radio and plans for yearly family gatherings will be in full swing. Christmas is right around the corner.
Christmas is a great opportunity to share the good news of who Jesus is and what he accomplished on the cross. The story of the baby in the manger can be an open door to share the full story of his actual identity and purpose. Why not prepare yourself to share the gospel this Christmas with your family, friends and neighbours?
It’s amazing the sort of impact one book can have. 20 years ago, in 1997, the book The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was published. At the time, author John R. Cross and the men working with him had no idea that it would be the catalyst for a global ministry and how many people would come to faith in Christ through it. It was just one book with a simple message: a straightforward, systematic presentation of the gospel from creation to the cross.
The writing of The Stranger was drawn from decades of missionary experience of those working among tribal people in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. These tribes, previously unevangelised and ignorant of the Bible’s message, responded well to a chronological presentation of the gospel. So well, in fact, that whole villages were putting their faith in Christ, without the age-old problems of syncretism and “rice Christians.” When the Bible was presented from creation to Christ, it made profound sense. The people would understand and believe. Lives were transformed.
But was it only tribal groups who responded so well to the creation-to-Christ method? What about the Western world? As John and his colleagues interacted with people back home in North America and around the world, they realized that some of these people were just as ignorant of the Bible as the tribal people. They knew nothing about God. They didn’t understand who Jesus was and why he came. We live, for the most part, in a post-Christian culture.
The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was, in a sense, an experiment. It was a book that used the same method that had proven so effective with tribal groups—a chronological approach to explaining the gospel—except this time for the Western world. It was designed so that it could be given away or used to guide people to a clear understanding of the Bible. But would it be relevant and effective?
Five full days of street evangelism! Under normal circumstances, if someone had suggested this idea as a potential evangelistic pursuit, my response would have been, “No thanks! Not for me!” However, here I was in a large van heading to the big city. My husband, Troy, and I were the designated leaders, no less, for a dozen or so college-aged students. And we’d be standing on a street corner in no time at all, attempting to get into deep spiritual conversations with all kinds of scary strangers.
The first day went by much as I expected. Many were closed to hearing about the Lord, a few were willing to get into a discussion and most walked by completely indifferent. That week on bustling city streets was quite the adventure, arming us with stories and experiences that still effect our approach to sharing the gospel when time is short.
Even if you never participate in street evangelism, it’s good to be prepared for the moment when you have a quick opportunity to share the Bible’s message with a passing stranger. Your brief opportunity may come while sitting in front of your hairdresser, or with the salesperson at the door, or while you’re passing time in a waiting room. No matter the scenario, there are certain common obstacles that brief interactions present, as well as good ideas to navigate those obstacles.
“Welcome to Bible time! I’m so glad you are here! Every day we will hear a story from God’s Word, the Bible.” Audrey* held up her Bible for the children to see, and then continued: “And the stories will help you to understand what the Bible is all about. Make sure you come back every day to get the big picture. It is like climbing the mountain. When you get to the top, you will see the big picture!”
The small classroom was filled wall to wall with children and their leaders. They sat cross-legged on the floor and looked up expectantly at Audrey. She stood beside the table full of visual aids—everything from stuffed animals to flannelgraphs to cut-outs of the cross and tomb. It was day one of Vacation Bible school. The children Audrey was teaching were from varied backgrounds—some churched, but many from broken homes and foster care. She had five days, one short session a day, to teach them the Bible’s story and help them understand the gospel.
Audrey had put a lot of prayer, thought and preparation into these Bible times. The purchased VBS curriculum had included material for a Bible time each day, but somehow it didn’t seem to be what was needed. Isolated Bible stories are just not suitable for children who know nothing about who Jesus is and what he did. They only had one week with these children and she couldn’t see how to adapt the assigned stories in a way that would clearly explain the gospel. The material also seemed watered down, missing key aspects of the gospel. Audrey decided to go back to square one and, with the blessing of the church leadership, made her own curriculum for the week.
So here she was, before the first group of expectant children, ages 6 through 12. All she had was her Bible, a worn copy of The Story that Matters, the visual aids and her notes.
We were blessed recently by the following testimony. Here are parents who have been successful in passing on to their children a passion for sharing the gospel.
The kids love trains. So we decided to take them on a train ride downtown. We encouraged seven-year-old Daniel* to take some GoodSeed books along to give to people on the train. One of the ladies he asked took the book but we could tell right away she was uncomfortable with it. It wasn’t long before she tossed the book a few seats down from her. We prayed together with the kids that someone would come take the book who needed it. A few stops later, another lady sat down, picked up the book and started intently reading it. She was about 10 pages into it before we got off at our next stop! Daniel is learning how easy it is to give the gospel to others.
A few weeks later, we took another train ride for Aaron’s birthday and took more books along to give away to people. Daniel said, “We need more books! Look at all these people that might not know Jesus!” Five-year-old Aaron even built up the courage to give a book to a young mother. We left a copy of The Story that Matters on a table in the public gardens and prayed someone would pick this book up. Sure enough, just 10 seconds later, we were blessed to see a man sit down at the table and begin reading it. We are praying that the recipients of these books would come to learn the Good News and place their trust in Jesus.
We are excited to see how God is using our children to reach others for Him, even at such a young age. Their love and concern for others that don’t know Jesus is so neat to see and a challenge to us as adults to not be afraid to give away the gospel.
Giving away a book is simple. So simple that even children can do it. Daniel and Aaron used The Story that Matters like a jumbo gospel tract. At 64 pages, it is succinct but with enough details to provide someone with a good explanation of the gospel message. And at $1 a copy when bought in bulk, the book is affordable to give away. Why not follow Daniel and Aaron’s example and prayerfully take some books with you next time you’re on the train or bus or in a public venue?
Our translation teams have worked on these two books for a number of years. Though there were challenges and occasions when the work had to halt, we’re thankful they are now ready to be used in discipleship and evangelism.
Additionally, these other translations are now completed:
Easter is an open door to engage with the people around you, often resulting in giving a book or even guiding a study. This next month may hold opportunities for you to share the gospel with your boss… or your brother… or the neighbour who has gone through cancer this year… or the jogger who passes you every day on your morning walk.
For many people, Easter simply equals chocolate and bunnies. But there are those who are curious about the season and its significance. There are also those who still make their traditional visits to church on Easter Sunday. Often, people are more willing to hear about the death and resurrection of Jesus at this time of year. Therefore, as believers, let us proactively create opportunities to share the real meaning and significance of Easter this season.
It is not unusual to see accounts from the Bible make it to the silver screen. Even if the films are not biblically accurate, they are good conversation starters that allow us to share what the Bible really does say. It is an opportunity for us to share the message of the gospel.
This year is the release of Risen. It tells the story of Christ’s resurrection from the perspective of a Roman soldier. Rather than throwing doubt onto the biblical account, Risen supports it. It presents Jesus as the Messiah sent by Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews. While one can appreciate how the story is crafted, the movie doesn’t explain why Jesus died and rose again. And so here is a good opportunity to take the conversation further with your unsaved friends who have seen the film.
Each day, GoodSeed sees numerous books shipped out into the waiting hands of… who knows? Typically we hear little of what happens with the tools we send out after they arrive at their destination.
For example, last year, in partnership with the Revival Movement Association in Ireland, GoodSeed saw 400,000 copies of L’histoire qui fait toute la difference, the French translation of The Story that Matters, shipped to French speaking countries around the world–primarily to Africa, though small numbers of books were also sent to France, Quebec and to the Dominican Republic for use with the Haitian community. We had tidbits of feedback, but really for the most part, we had very little idea how the materials were received and being used in these various locations.
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.