The Good News Skeleton
Meg is a cross-cultural evangelist. She has studied four languages and highly values simplifying the gospel message to better communicate with her neighbors. She teaches others to do the same. For several years, she taught new language learners to memorize 150 gospel sentences, with varying rates of success. Since then, she has found better ways to help newcomers learn simple gospel stories in their new languages by using what language they already know. Meg described to me how she began using the Good News Skeleton.
I kept thinking, how can people have something that is more doable? And I noticed also that memorizing things, if they got stuck on one part, it's like they couldn't even jump to the next sentence, or to a later sentence. They just got this ‘deer in the headlights’ look. So, I felt that having the 150 sentences was hard on people.
I told people, “You can modify it, you can cut it down to fifty sentences. Do what you want to do. Change it to your vocabulary.”
But people didn't. It's like as soon as gave them a piece of paper with sentences on it, it was like it was gold and that they had to do it exactly like that. A team-mate of mine showed me a really good way to share the gospel using hand motions. I really liked it. It was very learn-able. It still felt pretty long. I wanted people not to memorize it. I got this idea to just have a skeleton. It's sixteen sentences. What I found is that I didn't give people the handout. First, we learn it in English. Then, in the local language. And we do it a little different each time. We don't have to say these magic memorized sentences. We can learn to tell the Good News from our hearts, from what we already know.
Meg then introduced me to the Good News Skeleton with Hand Motions, a simple, elegant gospel presentation and invitation that is best demonstrated and watched. Here are the sixteen sentences:
In the beginning there was God.
God created the first people.
They had a perfect relationship with God.
But people disobeyed God, they sinned.
People were separated from God.
Sin is a barrier – to be with God.
How can we remove sin?
Only God can remove sin.
God became a person and lived among us.
That person was Jesus.
On the cross, Jesus took our sins and became the sacrifice.
Jesus died, was buried, but on the 3rd day he rose from the dead.
Because of Jesus, a relationship with God is possible.
I believed in Jesus, and my sins were forgiven.
According to the Bible, God’s Spirit filled me.
Do you want your sins forgiven through Jesus?
Hand motions describe the highlighted themes. For example, God as the first theme is represented by our raised, outstretched right hand. We then clasp it with our other hand to represent God’s original and intended relationship with people. As the story unfolds, because of our sin, that clasp is undone and replaced with a barrier we are burdened to carry (represented by a rock, cellphone, or something similar) which can only be removed by Jesus, God’s chosen sacrifice. Can you picture it? Watch the video below! These sixteen sentences, intentionally simple, form a skeleton, a framework with which we create a basic gospel presentation. As our language improves, we begin to discover how to build upon this skeleton.
For example, if we want to talk more about God, we can learn to describe who he is, his nature, that he is one. We can learn to talk about his purposes, holiness, justice, mercy, and love. If we want to talk more about people, we can work on saying how we were created in perfect relationship with God, that we sinned, and that we need a savior. Or about sin – our rebellion against God, what keeps us from his holy presence, our futile attempts to eradicate sin, and our need for salvation. Or Jesus – God who lived among us as a man, did great miracles, was completely sinless, obeyed God fully, became the guiltless sacrifice for our sins by dying on the cross, and who rose again as our living Lord.
The point is, we can and should begin sharing the basics of the simple, familiar gospel story early on. Then, as we learn more language, we can begin to slowly add descriptions and explanations. Practicing the Good News Skeleton or crafting gospel stories in our new languages has been incredibly motivating for me and so many other learners. Quite simply, we are motivated to learn more language – words, phrases, and stories – so we can share more of the gospel.
Watch the The Good News Skeleton video by Meg below. Remember, it's just that: a bare bones presentation of the Gospel with hand motions and simple props. This i a great resource for us as new learners to start sharing our faith early on. As you work through it remember to pursue it with more and more understanding in your new language. And consider this as a launchpad for sharing the gospel even more clearly, naturally, accurately, and abundantly as you learn your new language. Give it a try!