From a reluctant children’s ministry teacher to a dramatic preacher, Steve Munsey tells City News how he discovered his gift for “Story Time” preaching.
Contributed By Dawn Seow
When he was 14, he taught in the children’s ministry—reluctantly. Growing up in a strict religious Christian family where television, movie, dance and music were prohibited but church-going was a must, Stephan K. Munsey did not like church or ministry. But not liking it did not stop him from creating an interesting class for the 8- to 10-years-old he was teaching. To capture their attention, he would switch off all the lights in the room, shine a light on himself and tell Bible stories in a dramatic way.
Two decades later, there are stage lights instead of flashlights, and the story-telling is even more creative. Munsey’s unique messages now bless grown-ups all over the world. The reluctant boy is now the pastor of Family Christian Center in Munster, Indiana, the 15th largest church in the US, with a congregation of 18,000 members.
“My father is a pastor. We had to go to a lot of church back then but I didn’t like it. When I was 16, the Lord called me into ministry and but I did not want it. At that time I was teaching in the children ministry and was telling them Bible stories to keep their attention. When I finally went into ministry, all these didn’t change. I just added more to it and grew into writing productions as well. I was raised up in church all my life—I thought it was boring and just wanted to make it interesting.”
Church becomes a whole lot more interesting when Munsey is on stage. His unique style of communication—dramatizing the stories in the Bible and bringing them to life, a process he calls “Story Time”—has set him apart as a preacher. For a message titled “Catching Your Visions And Dreams” he let loose horses in his church auditorium. For “Never Forget,” which he preached at City Harvest Church on Dec. 4, he puts up a row of mirrors on stage.
As he transits into Story Time, the house lights dim, a movie-style soundtrack plays and a hush falls over the crowd. His tone changes from that of the strident preacher to the alluring tone of a master storyteller as he gives voice to the greatest stories ever told: God’s stories. Munsey powerfully brings the pages of the Bible to life as he presents tales of passion, violence, love, scandal, and mystery. He plays out dozens of different characters, giving his unique perspective of the thoughts and emotions of these biblical individuals. His audiences find themselves identifying with people who lived thousands of years ago.
“In recent years I’ve discovered that this is a gift that God gave me. It’s like people who can sing and perform—it is a gift and when I give it back to God for the ministry, the gift just operates and gets better and better.”
Today, Munsey has 1,000 trained actors and actresses in his church. His production crew of around 30 people includes full-time prop and wardrobe teams, and even a special team to look after the animals.
THE REWARD OF OBEDIENCE
When, at the age of 18, Munsey was asked by his father to preach for the first time to a crowd of 50 young people, he was less than enthusiastic. But it was obedience to his father that sent him on his journey to serve God full-time.
“My father told a pastor that I would come and speak [at his church]. Personally, I wanted to be a wealthy businessman to support the church. But I was 18 and my father was a strong disciplinarian so I had to obey him. It took me one week to come up with 10 minutes of material. I used a hammer and was trying to illustrate by acting out the message. Ten or 15, out of the 50 people, came out to the front to get saved.
“The pastor then told me I needed to go back again on the second night. I said I couldn’t because I had to work. I also didn’t have anything to speak on. They eventually persuaded me and I couldn’t reject them. So I prepared the whole night, went to work in the morning and spoke again that night.
“When I was speaking, a pastor who was in the meeting saw me preach and persuaded me to go to his church to do a week of preaching every night. I had nothing to preach on so my dad gave me about 20 books and I locked myself in the hotel room all day preparing and praying for the sermons. Then another pastor flew in to that meeting and since then, I never had a week free.”
Munsey is also an accomplished writer and television personality. He has his own television program, Yes You Can, which airs across America and is carried by short-wave radio throughout the world. He is widely recognized as a cutting-edge innovator, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere he goes.