Last month I was in London delivering a RealityBites assembly about Cheryl Cole’s consumerist faith in a school. As I arrived at King’s Cross station I observed an evangelist who was energetically quoting Bible verses at passersby. I think John 3:16 got a mention. I noticed that no one was listening. To be honest I felt embarrassed for the street preacher and hurried on to the school I was visiting.

Why does the word ‘evangelist’ often evoke this cringeworthy scenario?

Years ago when my children were filling their nappies, I found it onerous and gruelling talking about the Christian faith with non-Christian friends and neighbours. I knew about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) but failure to carry this out was my daily woe. I wanted to talk about Jesus and His death and resurrection but it often sounded awkward, clunky and cheesy. I dreaded conversations that might touch on Christian faith.

I remember praying – “Lord, I hate evangelism! Can I be a Christian and ignore the Great Commission?”

Truth be told, I lacked both confidence and imagination in my witnessing. I  discovered that many Christians also dreaded the e-challenge. In church I heard sermons that made me feel guilty about not sharing the gospel but I never heard a talk that helped me to talk about Jesus in a credible, natural and engaging way.

I began studying the gospels. How did Jesus talk to people? I discovered that Jesus told fantastic stories (parables) and he asked great questions. He had a gift for imaginative, winsome and engaging storytelling. I began praying: “Lord, how can I imaginatively share my story of a good God who loves this broken world and wants us to follow in His ways to bring blessing to the world without sounding like a desperate Bible basher?”

Thinking it through I realised that evangelism becomes easier and much more powerful when we engage intelligently with the hidden secular beliefs that are seldom mentioned or even noticed. Let me explain this key idea with two vignettes from my work as a Religious Education teacher. On one occasion during a lesson, a young fourteen-year-old boy said to me. “Mr Roques, your subject (RE) is rubbish because it isn’t scientific. It’s just your opinion so who cares what you think?” Boffins call this view materialism.

On another occasion, a twelve-year-old girl informed me that “Heaven will be whatever you want it to be.” Boffins call this view relativism. I began thinking and praying about this. Could we at RealityBites develop a way of talking about Jesus that was both imaginative and engaged with these hidden materialist and relativist mindsets? Traditional ways of doing evangelism seemed to fail on both these counts. I wanted to talk with people not at them.

I began exploring a creative, storytelling way of talking about the Christian faith. I began asking questions like this:

“Have you heard how England football manager, Glenn Hoddle was sacked in 1999 for saying that disabled people have a bad karma? In other words they are being punished for something they did in a previous life. What do you make of this story?”

As I chatted to non-Christian people, I pointed out that there are, at least, four ways of looking at this story. Some atheists say that when you die you rot and your corpse is nibbled by rats and worms (Materialist view). Others contend that when you die you get the afterlife you believe in (Relativist view). Then there are those who agree with Hoddle that when you die you come back deaf or blind if you have a bad karma. This then leads naturally into Christian communication – those who follow and believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection will have all their sins forgiven and enjoy bodily resurrection in a new heaven and a new earth.

I tried out this story on all kinds of unchurched unbelievers. I was thrilled to find that they didn’t glare at me as if I were a Bible basher. Disdain ebbed away. They often told me how intriguing and fascinating these stories were.

Wow! Telling stories and getting people to think about them from different angles really was enjoyable and fun. It took the dread out of evangelism and replaced it with joy, creativity and thanksgiving to God.

Now I have a wide range of stories that I use whenever I want to talk about Jesus. I find out what people naturally enjoy talking about and then I build bridges into this enjoyable chat zone. I tell intriguing stories and invite people to look at the narratives from different angles. I always finish by saying something important and edifying about Jesus.

So if I want to talk about repentance I have a story and some questions in the locker. Ditto the cross, the resurrection, the incarnation and the kingdom of God. Even why I believe in the angel Gabriel.

Telling stories and asking questions is natural, disarming and fun. This approach has liberated me to talk about the incredible hope I have in the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you would like to know more about this creative, storytelling approach to evangelism read my book The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails: Creative Ways of Talking about Christian Faith.

To find out more about the Glenn Hoddle story go to this RealityBites film:

Mark Roques
Categories: RealityBites

Mark Roques

Mark taught Philosophy and Religious Education at Prior Park College, Bath, for many years. As Director of RealityBites he has developed a rich range of resources for youth workers and teachers. He has spoken at conferences in the UK, Holland, South Korea, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Mark is a lively storyteller and the author of four books, including The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails: Creative Ways of Talking about Christian Faith. His work is focused on storytelling and how this can help us to communicate the Christian faith. He has written many articles for the Baptist Times, RE Today, Youthscape, Direction magazine and the Christian Teachers Journal.


Alan Flood · November 23, 2023 at 11:39 am

Great how you explain the difference between mission and soap box evangelism Mark and how mission in the public square means more than just preaching in a physical space.

Jim Skillen · November 24, 2023 at 1:18 pm

Mark: your stories, as I have read them over the past few years, have already convinced me of your approach, and they are wonderful. I was raised with the same worry you had about whether I was doing enough of the cringe-worthy evangelism. Then, one day on a flight I was taking, I thought, what if I just started talking out of the blue to the person sitting next to me about my wife—how wonderful she is and what she does, etc. The person next to me would think I was nuts and would certainly display signs of cringing. I had no basis of an ordinary, get-acquainted conversation that might have led to talking about my wife. It dawned on me that to talk to them about Jesus to a stranger, out of the blue, would be the same. You, with a story-telling gift have discovered just the way to do it. Thanks. Jim

Roy Clouser · November 24, 2023 at 6:02 pm

I think most Christians have had the same worries about evangelism, and have cringed at the fellow who wears sandwich signs and yells “Repent!” into a megaphone. Your solution is spot on, and you’ve become very adept at it.
For me the solution was a bit different (though not much): if I ask a stranger what he or she does for a living, they often ask me the same question. Since my reply is that I am (was) a professor of philosophy & religion, it often provokes a discussion isn which I could compare Christian Faith to other beliefs.
Keep up the good work, Mark. It’s splendid!

Duncan Stow · November 25, 2023 at 4:06 pm

I have learnt a lot from Rocky’s story telling style. A good story draws people in, helps people think and examine what they believe. Then you can have a real conversation !! The Glenn Hoddle story is a classic for inviting those who believe in Karma to think it through and be wiling to listen to the Christian story. I often use it and others to help open up faith conversations which are engaging and enjoyable and I pray fruitful

Dr Philip Thomas · November 25, 2023 at 10:59 pm

You know, I will always spare a moment to hear the views of someone whom I have judged to be sincere. That is to say, creating a space for evangelism surely starts with our life testimony. When we express Christ’s character in all that we think, say and do, then others who interact with us from day-to-day tend to take notice. They may then seek to know more about the source of our peace. And at that point, a great repertoire of intriguing stories would certainly come in handy!

As you suggest, creative story-telling was central to Jesus’ ministry. So, to sum up – if one can’t heal the sick, give sight to the blind or bring the dead back to life, at least grab someone’s attention with a good story!

Thanks for sharing, Mark.

God bless you.

Tim Bowman · November 26, 2023 at 8:50 am

Hi Mark,
I’ve been preaching in Broadmead Shopping Centre in Bristol for years. I always make sure my clothes are particularly dull, and that I am using my special ‘preachy’ voice. I then bark at people for hours on end. I have always assumed that the utter indifference of my audience [although on one glorious day I was arrested for homophobia] was a sign of the caustic truth of my message. Your suggestions have changed my life! I sat down with my Buddhist neighbour last night over an excellent coffee [freshly ground, organic] and commended her worldview for its encouragement to live in the moment, while tentatively suggesting there is an underlying anti-creation streak lurking beneath. We then enjoyed an excellent game of Scrabble. Suddenly Evangelism is fun! I have to go now and look up the word ‘winsome’, which was new to me,
Love in Christ,

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