This week’s blog series is by Dave White, a missionary with OC International in The Philippines. He shares his experience using T4T. T4T is a set of principles that weaves together evangelism, evangelism training, discipleship, and leadership development, including development of new pastors for new churches. This is all done in the context of actual church planting and church multiplication.
As I adapted the story method for use in The Philippines, here are some of the things I learned:
Stories are amazing. There’s a reason Jesus told so many stories: they grip people’s attention. Especially His stories. Over and over I’ve seen it as I’ve read Bible stories aloud. People are just sitting there captivated with their mouths hanging open. I used to use didactic passages in my Outreach Bible Studies, but I’ve found the stories to be so much more effective. Mainly I use stories from the gospels, but also ones from the Old Testament and Acts.
Why memorize? Just read. I attended an excellent training on how to use stories to make disciples. We were instructed to memorize the stories, which I did. But this became an obstacle to reproducibility. I’ve found that simply reading the stories worked nearly as well. Most potential leaders have busy lives and have a hard time finding time to memorize a story from the Bible. Simply reading works well enough, and leads to much more multiplication.
Condense the story. Many CPM (church planting movement) practitioners use long stories, in some cases 20 or 30 verses. I’ve found that condensing these long stories works much better: no paraphrasing, just removing the parts that aren’t essential. Many stories have extraneous detail and background information, and removing it helps people focus on the main point. Also, after reading the story, we have attenders repeat the story. When the story is long, they complain. When it’s short, things go a lot better.
Provide specific questions. Many CPM practitioners have a generic set of questions that they use with every story. This can work well, but it seems to work a lot better to use questions specific for each story. I print those questions on the same sheet of paper as the story—that way they go wherever the story goes and new leaders don’t have to make up their own questions. This also increases reproducibility.
Don’t skip the repeating. Here’s the structure: the leader reads the story aloud, the group repeats the story. The leader reads the story again, the group repeats the story. The leader reads again, then the groups goes to the questions and dialogue. Because the story is told aloud five times, it can be tempting to skip the repeating. Don’t. With each repetition, the truths of the story sink in deeper and deeper. The leader has a copy of the story and questions, and gives a copy to everyone present for their use. As part of the lesson, everyone practices being the leader. It’s so easy. Just read the story, and read the questions. Now they are leaders and can go on to teach the story to others: family, friends, coworkers. They have been trained on the spot.