Sneaking past the dragons: how to share the gospel in a suspicious world

 
Nate Morgan Locke | September 27th 2016

From Aristotle’s round-earth theory to the battle for votes for women—history shows us that humans are instinctively suspicious of new ideas. So how can we share a Christian message that is as radical as it is wonderful, without getting peoples’ defenses up? According to Nate Morgan Locke, an Associate Evangelist at Christianity Explored Ministries, it’s time we rediscover the lost art of storytelling.

50 years ago, in the summer of 1966 The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds—it’s a critically acclaimed album. It contains some of The Beach Boys’ greatest hits: God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You; Wouldn’t It Be Nice and their version of Sloop John B.

But one intriguing track on that album is called I Know There’s An Answer.

The song—written by Brian Wilson—wrestles with that common human experience of delighting in something, and wanting to know how best to share that with others. How do you convince someone that what you rejoice in is something that they should rejoice in too?

How do you convince someone that what you rejoice in is something that they should rejoice in too?

Problem is, for most of us our instinctive reaction is defensive. When we experience something new or different we can roll up like a hedgehog and put out our spikes towards other people. The lyrics of the song sum it up:

I know so many people who think they can do it alone
They isolate their heads and stay in their safety zones
Now what can you tell them
And what can you say that won't make them defensive
I know there's an answer
I know now but I have to find it by myself

Even those who consider themselves to be “early adopters” can tense up when someone talks about something “traditional”, or something that’s “stood the test of time”. Truth is, different ideas actually make us quite resistant. That’s what The Beach Boys’ song is getting at. And that’s a problem for us if we’re trying to communicate the good news about Jesus.

Now if Brian Wilson had been reading the New York Times 10 years earlier—in November 1956—he would have read an article by C.S. Lewis talking about fairy tales. C.S. Lewis was thinking retrospectively about his Narnia Chronicles and just how powerful they’d been at communicating some of the things he believed in.

Lewis said that stories are stealthy. Stories have a way of getting behind our defense systems. He put it beautifully when he said, “Stories allow us to steal past those watchful dragons”.

Stories have a way of getting behind our defense systems. “Stories allow us to steal past those watchful dragons”.

Brian Wilson asked, “What can you say that won't make them defensive?” CS Lewis would answer: “Tell them a story”.

But it wasn’t C.S. Lewis who came up with this idea. Think back to Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. When Hamlet wants to confront Claudius, his uncle, he says, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll capture the conscience of the king”.

But of course, Shakespeare didn’t come up with it either. You can go even further back to the ancient King David. When Nathan approached David to call him out on his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12), he told the King a story. He snuck past those watchful dragons and said, “Can you hear this story? Let’s see this thing you’ve done from a different perspective”.

That’s why when we were developing Life Explored, we wanted to put storytelling at the heart of it. Now, you can tell stories in a thousand different ways. We could have written some poems, we could have taken some photographs, we could have written some novels. Frankly, it would have been an awful lot cheaper to do that.

But over the past 100 years the marriage of moving pictures and sound has given us one of the most powerful tools for communicating story, meaning and truth. Where else but film do we discover what we believe about ourselves and hear other people’s perspectives? Often it’s only on the screen do we declare our wildest dreams and disclose our darkest nightmares.

And so we decided that we wanted to tell some stories because we believe in something, and we want other people to believe in it too. We want to share what we have found to be delightful—or rather, who.

We want to use these Life Explored films—these seven stories—to create a space for a conversation. To help people feel comfortable. To give people the opportunity to sit and ask a few questions and wrestle with some issues together. That’s why a Life Explored session also contains a teaching film, a short Bible study and discussion questions that allow people to wrestle with some of their biggest issues and most profound questions.

As we’ve piloted Life Explored, so many of these films have provided us with an opportunity to share something, to start a conversation. They’ve provided a space where people feel comfortable, people haven’t got their backs up, and we can chat, talk freely, and we can find out what life is really all about. I believe in the one who says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”. And these films provide a space to have a conversation about Jesus.

This is adapted from Nate’s speech at the first Life Explored launch event in London on the 1st September. It’s not too late to catch the Life Explored launch tour. See all the dates here.

Discover more about Life Explored and discover the power of story for yourself.

Join the conversation and comment below. You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and download The Good Book Company App straight to your phone or tablet.

Nate Morgan Locke

Nate Morgan Locke is Associate Evangelist at Christianity Explored Ministries and serves on the staff team at St Bart's Church, Bath, UK.

Featured product

Related titles