A story to grab people’s attention

My purpose is always to work towards sharing the Bible overview set of stories (eight or nine). However, it is often worthwhile having a story that grabs attention in your cultural context.

The main principle for choosing a ‘grab attention’ story is that it should speak directly to a perceived need in your community. How do you work out the perceived need? Listen to what people talk about. What do they long for? What words to they use all the time.

Here are some I’ve noticed:

  • in Taiwan they talk about ‘blessing’ and ‘finding peace’ and ‘harmony’
  • many Muslims talk/worry about ‘purity’ or ‘being forgiven’
  • many Westerners want ‘meaning/fulfillment/purpose’

Once you’ve worked out some potential ‘needs/themes’:

  • list all the Bible stories that you can think that raise that issue
  • pray hard and ask the Holy Spirit to show you which stories are best
  • go out and try them with your people group
  • one more thing: women are often more moved by stories about women and men prefer to hear about men. It is possible you will need a different ‘grab’ story for men and women. If you can only learn one, then usually a story about a man works best because women seem much better able to learn and be moved by stories about men than vice versa.

Let me explain how we went through this process in our context in southern Taiwan.

We noticed that locals often used the word ‘blessing’ and they said they went to temples to gain ‘blessings’ of various sort, usually money or health.

We also wanted a ‘transformed life’ story. We considered many stories. Here were some of our options and our thinking about why we didn’t choose them.

  • the woman wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair – good for women but we want a story to appeal to men as well)
  • the Samaritan woman – same as above plus which section to use? With 16 consecutive verses it is hard to choose the sections we want
  • the legion of demons – we nearly went with this because the man’s transformation is so major and he is also sent out to tell his testimony to others.

The story we’ve decided on for now is that of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Here is a way we could use it in our Taiwanese context which seeks blessing and regularly uses this actual word and concept in conversation.

Sample conversation

“Why do people in Taiwan go to temples?” To seeking blessings.

“What kind of blessings?” Health, wealth.

“We would like to tell you a story about a man who was both healthy (he could still climb trees at his age) and very wealthy. He got his wealth by … (explain Roman tax system). But was he happy? Listen to the story and hear what people thought about him.”

Tell the story -a transformed life story – what happened? Why? He was lost – what does this mean?

Then bridge in to our ‘lostness’ or ‘seeking blessing in wrong places’ story (testimony) – two minutes or less in a before and after format.

Conclude with, “Would you like to hear more stories about how your life can be transformed like Zacchaeus and find true blessing?”

In your context what would be the best initial story to grab people’s attention?

The training video above is on this topic.

This post is also available in (our template), (our template), French, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.

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