Telling the Old, Old Story in a New Way

John ArmstrongEvangelism

Historical museums across America are regularly adjusting to the new cultural realities of our time. People no longer stand and read long texts like they once did. Their attention span is just too short and their reading level lower than in previous generations. Besides this sad fact, there is the simple reality that people have always learned in ways besides reading. And the way people process information is regularly changing. More recently it seems to have changed quite profoundly. (Many Christians of my generation do not acknowledge this at all.) For this reason the new Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, includes an actor who engages Abe’s holographic ghost during a tour of the Lincoln Presidential Library. And Mount Vernon is about to do the same for George Washington, making education and entertainment partners in the process.

I think about these new realities a great deal since my calling is to communicate effectively with people. I am committed to teaching core material that requires thought and serious learning. How can I do this without falling into a type of modern seduction? Newsweek writer Nathan Thornburg says, “When it comes to history, Americans don’t lack information; they lack the attention span to wade through the dusty collections of the old history museums. And that’s where the new museums, using technology to make themselves savvier storytellers, can do their part to preserve the future of history.”

I am increasingly convinced that the church must face this cultural situation with profound interest if we truly care about communicating the gospel. Presenting the gospel as an argument, as propositions, or as a case to be decided in the court of opinion, is not the way we must evangelize today. If this is true then we must commit ourselves to the training of savvy storytellers who communicate in new ways. I am working at this myself but teaching an old dog new ticks is not easy I assure you. My calling requires this effort if I am really serious about telling the old, old story in fresh ways that truly connect with people.