My Journey

The gospel story-arc has become my passion.

I became a Christian when I was just eight years old. The pastor who led me to Christ routinely preached what we would call “salvation messages.” One day I responded to the altar call. The pastor took me aside and led me in a prayer of faith. I will forever be grateful to the Lord for my pastor’s faithfulness to proclaim the good news.

After high school, I attended a four-year Bible college to prepare for a life of ministry. I will also be forever grateful for the training I received there. It’s where I was introduced to systematic theology and traditional Bible study methods. However, it wasn’t until several years into pastoring that I became interested in narrative hermeneutics. I decided to preach a sermon series from the Book of Acts using a narrative approach. That series changed my life. It led to discoveries in the Word that still play a central role in the way I share the gospel. I’ll write more about this in time.

The Lord used numerous other sermon series to shape my thinking (and heart) as the years went by. Meanwhile, there were four additional streams of life experience that eventually merged with my growing interest in narrative hermeneutics. The first is a love for writing, something I distinctly remember grabbing hold of me starting in seventh grade. The second is a love for reading, especially for reading a good story (actually, I love any form of storytelling). The third is my graduate training in communication theory. The fourth is my exposure to cross-cultural ministry.

Currently I serve as the Regional Director of Word of Life International in the Pacific Rim, which takes in countries ranging from Japan to New Zealand. Throughout my pastoral career, I have been blessed to minister in more than 20 countries on six continents, while also taking an active interest in the spiritual needs of various people groups here at home.

It was our interest in reaching Japanese people for Christ that led my wife and me to begin serving with Word of Life. Eleven years ago, we became so burdened for these dear people, who know so little about who Jesus is. Less than ½ of 1% of Japanese profess to know Christ, even nominally. When all of the streams I’ve mentioned began to merge, we realized that one of the reasons why so few Japanese are believers is because of the communication dynamics associated with the way we Westerners package the gospel message. In the West, we are given to communicating the gospel in linear, logical, and abstract ways. It’s not that Japanese people cannot understand linear, logical, and abstract communication. It’s just that linear, logical, and abstract communication becomes an obstacle in religious contexts.

And so the streams of my life experience merged: an interest in narrative hermeneutics, a love for writing and storytelling, an interest in communication theory, and a love for cross-cultural evangelism. Since beginning to apply what I've learned to ministry contexts in Japan, I have discovered that the same dynamics are in play throughout Asia, and most other places as well. Consequently, I have devoted my life to helping others understand the three things I mean by "the gospel story-arc": the plotline of Scripture; an effective method of evangelism; and the means by which we attract people to listen to what we have to say about Jesus.



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Randal Gilmore