Because the amount of people who have a basic understanding of the Bible “is shrinking in America,” Jerry McCorkle said he began to explore a “new” way to share the Christian faith with all people.
The result is “The Story” (viewthestory.com), an evangelism and discipleship tool to help relay the overarching story of the Bible – creation, fall, rescue and restoration.
“What we’re trying to say is that Jesus is the reality,” said McCorkle, executive director of Spread Truth Ministries (spreadtruth.com) based in Bloomington, Ill. “We need to know this big story, and we need to craft it in such a way that it taps into the deepest desires of their heart.”
In August, there will be a two-day conference at Caraway Conference Center. “The Story: A Witness Training Conference” is set Aug. 16-17.
Several North Carolina Baptists have contributed to the materials, which are continuing to be developed, including the training manual, booklets, a recently released English Standard Version Bible based on “The Story” and applications for smartphones.
It’s not “The Story,” but “it’s God’s story,” said George Robinson, assistant professor of missions and evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest and contributor to the project. “I just feel like … it’s not the only way, [but] it’s a good way to re-center conversations on what matters the most.”
In the 18 years Alvin Reid has taught at Southeastern, he is “always thinking about effective ways to share the gospel in this culture.”
When in Jerusalem, during New Testament times, Paul was speaking to Jews who had an understanding of the scriptures, or the Old Testament. When he got to Mars Hill and Athens, Paul had to use a different approach. He started with creation. “We used to live in Jerusalem but America is now Athens,” Reid said.
This is evident by observing television, culture and music. “There’s a hunger for more,” he said. “There’s a hunger for truth. I believe we have to give people the whole panoramic view.”
Pairing evangelism with discipleship is key, Reid said. People need to see the Bible as more than a book of rules.
“The gospel is about knowing God,” he said. “I think the best way to share the gospel is to take them from where they are to the cross.”
Developing ‘The Story’
“The Story” started several years ago as a smaller tract called “More to Life,” McCorkle said. Spread Truth, a nondenominational ministry, plans a big mission push each summer taking groups from all over the country to New York to work on a variety of projects. As they went on this trip year after year they tried to use the usual evangelism tracts or training materials but many are based on a person’s knowledge of a basic biblical framework.
George Robinson took a screen shot of his personalized Story map for his account online. The booklets he has distributed have resulted in a people from all over the world coming online to see “The Story.” The evangelism/discipleship tool produced by Spread Truth Ministries is gaining ground because it encourages believers to meet people where they are and show them how they fit in God’s story.
Robinson happened to be in New York one year with another mission team he was leading, and he found an early Spread Truth tract. He had been developing something on his own that mirrored some of the same concepts.
“I couldn’t just say Jesus died for your sins,” Robinson said, because “they defined the narrative outside of scripture. I found I had to tell the whole story.”
Robinson began consulting with Spread Truth and Reid. It went from a small booklet to a training manual.
Individuals and churches can have a personalized web page to keep track of how many contacts have checked their particular Story page. There are also applications for Android and Apple smartphones to help with sharing “The Story.”
For a pastor, utilizing a church account will allow members to see how God is using members to witness to others. Robinson suggests using a Powerpoint to display the map showing where “The Story” has been shared.
In 2010, Robinson headed to Orlando for the annual meeting. He had just opened his personalized ‘Story’ account online. On the way down he shared the booklet with a person in Wilmington, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a couple of other pit stops along the way. By the time he made it to Orlando, Robinson said all those people had used the web address given on “The Story” booklet.
At the Raleigh International Festival last year Robinson handed out 20 “The Story” booklets. By lunch the next day, 16 of the 20 people had visited his personalized site.
“It makes you want to share more,” he said. “The real challenge is day to day, recognizing the opportunities to share the story of the gospel in the context of this broader story.”
Robinson encourages believers to go to the same person to get a haircut or go into the same gas station to pay for your gas.
“Pay at the pump kills evangelism,” Robinson said. “We are in such a hurry, Christians are cutting themselves off from the world. We, of all people, should be winsome.”
Spreading ‘The Story’
When J.D. Greear of The Summit Church in Durham recorded a video with David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., about “The Story” materials, McCorkle said it went viral. A Tweet from Platt was shared at least 2,000 times.
“We were very fortunate that we were connected with key people,” McCorkle said.
At this point almost 600,000 booklets have been distributed in English, Spanish and German.
“‘The Story’ has really developed into something far beyond what we ever thought,” McCorkle said. “We’re actually characters in this drama. We’re actually living in ‘The Story.’”
This month, “The Story English Standard Version Bible” was released. Contributors from North Carolina include Robinson and Reid, along with Daniel Akin, Southeastern’s president; Greear; Jerome Gay, Vision Church, Raleigh; Tracy McKenzie, Southeastern; Tony Merida, Imago Dei Church and Southeastern; Benjamin Merkle, Southeastern; and Heath A. Thomas, Southeastern.
Part of sharing “The Story” is learning your part in it and how to tell that to others. “They’ll never really learn it until they craft it themselves,” McCorkle said.
Knowing the basic themes of creation, fall, rescue and restoration will help people engage others with the gospel, he said.
“They will really see that this gospel flows along a plotline,” McCorkle said. “You can draw a person into it if you share it in a narrative form. That’s how Jesus did it. The story of Jesus is the underlying reality to which all the other stories point.”
As with any materials, “The Story” is going through another revision to streamline the training manual to make it quicker to disseminate. McCorkle estimates the new version will be finished in April.
Teaching ‘The Story’
Both Robinson and Reid are using “The Story” materials to teach their students – pastors, youth leaders or other church staff, missionaries and lay volunteers – at Southeastern.
Before the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Robinson took 24 students to participate in Crossover New Orleans, a ministry push leading up to the annual meeting. Those students saw more than 150 people come to faith using “The Story” training.
For information about the August training, contact [email protected] or (800) 395-5102, ext. 5563.