Even before the Gospels were written down, the early Christians gathered in homes and public spaces to tell stories about Jesus and his teachings. In Fresh Expressions and other innovative forms of Christian community focused on people who aren’t already part of the church, the simple practice of sharing Jesus stories brings this tradition alive today.
“Jesus Stories” are simple, short retellings about something Jesus said or did in five minutes or less. They can be told by any disciple (not just clergy). Jesus stories are accompanied by open-ended questions that spark discussion. Gathering around Jesus stories provides opportunities for open and honest conversations about the joys and struggles in our lives that people from any or no religious background can enter into.
Here are some simple instructions for how to tell a Jesus story. As with anything in Fresh Expressions or mission, don’t go alone! At least two people should partner together to lead these kinds of conversations (Lk 10:1). They happen best in neighborhood spaces or homes where people are comfortable gathering and have already begun to form relationships characterized by listening, loving, and building community.
Crafting the Jesus Story
Step 1: Prayerfully Choose a Jesus story.
Prayerfully search the scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you as you read. What is something Jesus said or did that resonates with you? Read the passage multiple times, consult commentaries to see what others have said about this passage.
Step 2: Locate Yourself in the Jesus Story.
Prayerfully ask yourself why this Jesus story is so meaningful to you. Why does this story touch your soul? Where do you see yourself in what Jesus said or did? How has this changed you? If the story or teaching doesn’t move you personally, you should find another one that does.
Step 3: Prepare the Jesus Story.
How will you share this Jesus story with others? If it helps you to write it down, feel free to do so. However, it’s better if you can tell the story without notes. Perhaps read the passage aloud, then rehearse how you will communicate to the group.
Step 4: Deliver the Jesus Story in 3-5 Minutes.
Tell the Jesus story to your community. It doesn’t need to be long. Three to five minutes is a good rule. You could simply read a couple verses of the story out loud, then summarize. Try thinking of the narrative form you are using like the one offered below in section II.
Step 5: Ask Questions To Spark the Conversation.
Here are some questions you might consider: What would this story look like today? What if this Jesus story is true? If it is true, how would it make a difference in my life? What is this Jesus story saying to me? What is one small thing I can change in my daily life as a result of this Jesus story? What is one thing I might do differently?
These questions give access for non-Christians to join in the conversation. They are intentionally designed not to be “right or wrong” answer questions, but to invite curiosity and reflection.
Delivering the Jesus Story
Telling a story is an art form that you can improve upon with practice. Remember the four movements of a good Jesus story:
- Set the Tension: invite your hearers on a narrative journey with something provocative or curious that upsets the equilibrium (ex. “Jesus ate good food with bad people” “Have you ever felt unclean?” “Jesus was guilty of shepherd malpractice; he left 99 in the wilderness to pursue a lost wild one” “Here’s a story Jesus told about a reckless sower, he cast good seed wastefully all over the place,” etc.).
- Paint the Picture: tell the group exactly what the story says. Look for details in the text that color the story for your hearers.
- Personal Experience: why is this Jesus story meaningful to you personally, how has it healed, challenged, or changed you? Give personal testimony about Jesus in your own life
- Resolve the Tension: close with answering the question you asked or restoring equilibrium to the quandary you raised. Better yet, invite your hearers to resolve the tension by using the kinds of questions suggested above!