FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)—In bringing closure to a Bible Storying opportunity, consider:
-- Simple invitation. The simplest invitation at the conclusion of your storying is to invite people to believe on Jesus and what He has done on their behalf. Whether this is understandable or an acceptable practice will need to be informed by local missionaries or evangelists. Often foreigners can do things the local leaders cannot easily do or would feel uncomfortable doing. Be careful that any positive response such as a raised hand or verbal acknowledgement is not simply a desire to keep a good relationship with the foreigner. It would be good to have people tell why they are responding that way -- to verbalize their sinful condition and desire to believe that Jesus died for their sins. Ask for testimonies.
A one-on-one presentation is the easiest to bring closure as the invitation can be personalized and extended as needed. A tract that summarizes the major points of the story in a narrative form may be helpful if the people are literate. A picture tract can be helpful for non-literates to cue them to remember the stories.
-- Invitation to talk one-by-one. This is an invitation to a less public time when a more intimate presentation of the invitation to believe is given. Circumstances will dictate when best to do this. The seekers in the group are invited to come to you to express their response to the story of Jesus. Ask if you can go to their home to talk with the family about the story and what they should do after hearing the story of Jesus.
-- When a public response is not possible or difficult for seekers. This is particularly a problem for women in Muslim lands and common among young people in many places. One possibility for an invitation is for a "silent heart" response in which the women or young people in their own hearts decide what they must do. They can be led to pray a silent prayer to acknowledge their belief on Jesus, to receive forgiveness of sin and to be filled with assurance of the Spirit, resulting in joy and peace. Signaling their response before others is the problem. Some have invited women to respond by making a mark on a piece of paper and giving it privately to the storyer, or in whispering to the storyer their response. Prayer is offered for all the women and for God's protection and blessing of those believing on Jesus. Again, be sensitive to local practice and advice of those who live and work among the people. Suggest that each ask God to make them bold to confess their new faith publicly.
-- Invitation to view "JESUS" film. This is a way of preparing a people for the visualized story of Jesus in which the whole group sees the story together and are challenged to believe on Jesus in the story review at the close of the film.
-- Public invitation by storyer or evangelist. This is the most open way for a people to acknowledge their belief in Jesus, hopefully as a result of expressing their sinful condition before a righteous God and their helplessness to save themselves from God's wrath. Follow the culturally acceptable pattern of local missionaries or leaders.
-- Your own favorite invitation or closure. You may have your own favorite invitation or closure to a presentation of the Gospel. Check with a local pastor or missionary to see if it is culturally acceptable and not likely to be misunderstood by the listeners.
-- Immediate affirmation of new believers. It is essential to immediately affirm new believers by going back over the key stories: mankind's broken relationship with God due to sin, God's judgment of sin, the substitute sacrifice, the covering sacrifice of blood, the promise of one who would suffer for our sins, and the death and resurrection of Jesus, or using affirming Scriptures which show they have made the right decision according to God's Word.
Pray with the believers, one-by-one if possible, for the whole group as an alternative. Ask God to strengthen each one and to protect them from Satan's attack. Ask how their lives will change as new believers. Teach some worship songs and have a thanskgiving worship, thanking God for His mercy on sinners and asking for His blessing on new believers and watchcare over them.
J.O. Terry is publisher of the Bible Storying Newsletter and the Journal of Bible Storying. He was a media missionary in Asia with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board from 1968-2003. Daniel R. Sanchez is associate dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Scarborough Institute of Church Planting & Growth.
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