One doesn’t have to look far in the New Testament to see Jesus using story to convey truth. Rarely did He give what we would recognize as a sermon. Instead, He told parables. He knew the power of story, its effectiveness, its pull. However, “story” seems to be an area that most churches have yet to fully use.

Author Kristi Ann Hunter observes, “Fiction can reach people in ways that nothing else can. A story can grip a heart and make readers learn something about themselves because they relate to the character in the book.”

While pastors quote from the classical works by Lewis or Tolkien—if at all—more recent novels can be just as effective and perhaps more relevant. And they don’t apply only to sermon references. Small group Bible studies can double as a book club, and vice versa, thus opening the door to reach people who wouldn’t (yet) dare enter a church.

How would this work?

This summer, for example, a blogger is reading Charles Martin’s Long Way Gone with her book club while they’re simultaneously studying the “lost” parables in the book of Luke. Another recent novel, Dragon Seed by Pastor Marty Machowski, includes Bible study questions. Some authors, like Connilyn Cossette, even write online devotions to accompany their books.

Support groups can also incorporate novels into their meetings. For instance, Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald relates to post-abortive women, while A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti could appeal to marriages in recovery. The list is endless; we just need to be willing to try.

—Carrie Schmidt

Read more on Christian fiction: Living on the Edge – Part 1