By / May 12

Authenticity is the ideological currency of our culture. 

Many preachers and evangelists of the 20th and 21st centuries have rightly emphasized absolute truth. Often, as these faith leaders died or were discovered to be hypocrites (for some, in that order), so did confidence in their message. People witnessed leaders who preached something that didn’t actually change or affect their lives, and as we slid closer to postmodernity, Christianity became just another option in a sea of belief systems. 

Yet behind the grandiose, post-truth taglines like “I’m living my truth” or “What’s true for you isn’t true for me,” there is a deep longing for truth with a favorable outcome. Truth worth believing in produces positive, long-lasting change.

So as our leaders-at-large dwindle to a handful of still-trusted (or not-yet-distrusted), who is left to tell the truth? To share authentic, deep, abiding faith? We are. And it’s time to start telling our stories. 

The power of storytelling

Lee Strobel, prolific author and former skeptic, says it wasn’t just the facts that led him to faith in Jesus, but the stories of those he spoke with and studied. First, the “winsome” changes he saw in his wife intrigued him. He interacted with scholars who shared their own personal faith stories. Even the 12 disciples’ changed lives moved Lee to consider Jesus. 

The Bible tells us that our stories, when paired with the gospel of Jesus, have incredibly powerful effects. Revelation 12:11 says the life-changing gospel ultimately defeats Satan:  “And [the saints] have conquered [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”  

Our stories don’t enhance the gospel; it’s the opposite. The gospel infuses our stories with an incredible, true, and certain hope for those that need it most. Our stories hold a power the devil cannot withstand. 

God created our brains to process stories differently and more effectively than facts and data. It’s nearly impossible for our brains to ignore a good story. Well-told stories can create a closeness between the storyteller and the listener, making storytelling a natural relationship-building skill. 

Your story of how the gospel changes your life can go where a tract, a preacher, or any other kind of evangelism method or tool often cannot. Your story can open doors and pave the way in friendships where the gospel can be explained — and lived out — in personal and authentic ways. And yes, our stories include flaws and our imperfections, but these allow us to share how Jesus loves and heals us deeply and uniquely. Our evangelistic tone shifts from “You need Jesus” to “We need Jesus, and he is bigger than all our sins and mistakes.” 

Share your story, share Jesus 

Being ready to tell our stories whenever we’re asked (1 Pet. 3:15) means we have to know how the gospel has changed our lives. It also means we have to be willing to listen to others’ stories, and to do so free of criticism so that we can earn the right to be heard. 

Storytelling is more than a buzzword or a societal phenomenon; it’s a way we can share how Jesus is real and awesome and trustworthy. Storytelling is a sacred art which helps us engage our culture for the gospel of Jesus, honestly and genuinely. Through the Holy Spirit, may our stories point to the trustworthiness of Jesus rather than a leader’s platform or charisma. 

In a world that is increasingly skeptical of leaders and official narratives, our authentic stories may go farther than previous evangelism methods. But our message is the same: Jesus Christ crucified, raised, bringing abundant life, and coming again. 

By / Mar 11

Moses was about to die. His 40-year journey in the wilderness with the Israelites had undeniably proven God’s people needed a circumcision much deeper than the flesh. They needed a circumcision of the heart—a fundamental revolution of their innermost being that was resistant to loving God (Deut. 10:16). This need would echo throughout the Old Testament until the Savior came, followed by the powerful indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

As Moses laid before the people of Israel “life and death, blessing and curse” (Deut. 30:19) he made sure to not leave the future generations of Israelites without testimonies of God’s holiness, righteousness, and faithfulness. He promised that the day would come when “the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut. 30:6). But until then, he called three lasting witnesses against Israel’s chronic unfaithfulness: heaven and earth (Deut. 31:28), the Book of the Law (Deut. 31:26), and . . . a song (Deut. 31:19). 

The centrality of God’s Word

The Book of the Law, which Moses wrote down at God’s direction, was to be put alongside God’s very presence—the ark of the covenant (Deut. 31:26). It was to be read aloud by the priests to the whole congregation of Israelites every seven years at the Feast of Booths “that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God” (Deut. 31:12). God also instituted this tradition for the sake of the children who didn’t yet know God’s Word (Deut. 31:13). 

The community commitment to hearing God’s Word wasn’t only a concern every seven years. God had called Israel to “teach them diligently to your children” inside and outside of the home (Deut. 6:7). The Word of God was to be central in the life of his people—“it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Deut. 32:47). It was vital that God’s people passed down the testimonies of his redemptive work in Egypt and his faithfulness in the wilderness from generation to generation. 

The Song of Moses 

And how would these testimonies get passed down from one generation to the next? The Song of Moses. God told Moses:

Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give. (Deut. 31:19–21)

Though this song’s stated purpose was rather bleak, it ended with a triumphant proclamation of God’s future restoration of his people (Deut. 32:43). And this word of warning and judgment and hope would find residence in the mouths of generations of Israelites, carried on by a melody. 

God and the arts

God created the arts. He is, of course, the greatest artist of all time (and before time). Nature—God’s general revelation of himself—undeniably communicates his power and creativity (Ps. 19:1–6). And the Bible—God’s special revelation of himself—undeniably displays even more profound aspects of his creativity and glory (Ps. 19:7–11). 

The Bible is one grand story of God’s incredible redemptive work in history, which centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ. And this grand story is communicated through various text types, from law to discourse to narrative to poetry. Just as God didn’t communicate his Word solely through the Book of the Law but through the Song of Moses, God didn’t communicate the truth of who he is and what he has done through one literary genre. He filled the Bible with various literary masterpieces, which help us to feel, experience, and remember his glory.

The art we create in the Body of Christ, then, isn’t meant to replace Scripture’s centrality in our lives. Rather, the arts are meant to help us emotionally connect to the words of Scripture. Whether visual or poetic or storytelling or musical, the arts help bring color to our imagination as we read the Bible. They help us engage our senses in such a way that we feel we can almost embody the text

Do you remember how you learned the alphabet? I bet it was through a song. By putting melodies or rhythm and rhyme to Scripture, memorization becomes much easier. The Song of Moses illustrates this, as do the Psalms. 

Children and the arts 

But of course, any Sunday School or elementary school teacher could have told you the importance of the arts in their curriculum. When I had the privilege of teaching during Sunday School for four to six year-olds for about five years, I learned that what especially stuck with them were the songs (with a few dance moves thrown in there), the chants, and the storytelling through visuals and crafts. 

Now that I’m a mom of a five-year-old, I’m learning once again that it’s not my lectures about God’s Word that she tends to recite later on. It’s the storybooks and the YouTube animations that retell Bible stories and, of course, the songs. Apparently, children still learn best by singing, as they did in Moses’s day. 

How can we faithfully teach God’s Word to our children and the next generation? Moses tells us, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:7–9). 

In other words, make the Word of God your constant meditation, conversation, and yes, song. Utilizing the arts and the gazillion children’s Bible resources out there, share his Word with the little people in your life. 

By / Aug 25

Sally Lloyd-Jones joins Russell Moore to talk about her bestselling children's book, The Jesus Storybook Bible. Lloyd-Jones shares ways for parents to engage the hearts and minds of their children with the beautiful story of the Gospel. 

By / Aug 25

Phil Vischer teaches parents how to form the moral imagination of their kids and shares how storytelling can be an effective tool for creating a Biblical framework for imagination and creativity.

By / Aug 25

Russell Moore joins Phil Vischer, Andrew Peterson, Randall Goodgame, and Sally Lloyd-Jones to talk about the power of story and song in parenting and family life.