True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In, By James Choung alt

True Story

A Christianity Worth Believing In

The IVP Signature Collection

by James Choung

True Story
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Published: May 03, 2022
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4702
  • ISBN: 9780830847020

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There must be more to the Christian story.

In this engaging narrative, James Choung weaves the tale of a search for a Christianity worth believing in. Disillusioned believer Caleb and hostile skeptic Anna wrestle with the plausibility of the Christian story in a world of pain and suffering. They ask each other tough questions about what Jesus really came to do and what Christianity is supposed to be about. Along the way, they discover that real Christianity is far bigger than anything they heard about in church. And the conversion that comes is not one that either of them expects.

Join Caleb and Anna on their spiritual journeys as they probe Christianity from inside and out. Get past old clichés and simplistic formulas. And discover a new way of understanding and presenting the Christian faith that really matters in a broken world.

First published in 2008, True Story introduced Choung's groundbreaking approach to explaining the gospel. Now with a new preface, it is part of the IVP Signature Collection, which features special editions of iconic books in celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of InterVarsity Press. A new companion Bible study guide is also available.

"Brilliant. . . . Tools like this can change the world."

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life

"The book is amply 'storified' and is a huge, huge step forward in evangelism. Pastors and parents need this book; youth ministers and college ministers need this book."

Scot McKnight, on

"James has found a simple way to convey to both Christians and non-Christians that the good news is cosmically good—a diagram that does the best job I've encountered yet of placing our personal stories in the context of God's bigger story."

Andy Crouch, author of Playing God and The Tech-Wise Family

"Christianity can become so obsessed with conversion that it loses the art, commitment and passion for conversation. They must go hand in hand. Choung does a fantastic job in engaging the skeptic and cynic to consider the invitation of the amazing narrative story and life of the triune God. Similarly, the call for the body of Christ to shed Christianity as a self-help, therapeutic religion and instead see it as a life of partnership and participation in the kingdom of God is another refreshing message. Honestly, I've never been a fan of diagrams, but Choung shares some incredible simple-but-profound illustrations that help elucidate the good news in a biblically faithful and culturally relevant manner."

Eugene Cho, author of Overrated and Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk

"Choung's 'napkin theology' and its 'four-worlds' diagram promise to be for evangelism in the twenty-first century what the 'Four Spiritual Laws' were for the twentieth century."

Leonard Sweet, coauthor of Jesus Manifesto

"Is True Story a real-life drama or a simple diagram? I don't know, but I love it! James Choung has given us a gift that I suspect will greatly reduce the number of fidgety Christians and yawning skeptics out there. True Story reminds us that our news really is good, and helps us communicate that message simply and comprehensively using four simple circles."

Don Everts, author of The Reluctant Witness

"Amid the clutter of domesticated Christianity, Choung's book creatively reminds us all—academics, pastors, activists and grandmas—of the true revolution from which we come. Much of pop-Christianity is obsessed with the self-centered goal of finding our life, forgetting that Christ's call is to lose our life for others in order to find it. This book is an urgent cry not to settle for the dream of America over the dream of God, nor to allow cynicism to suffocate the hope that another world is possible. May True Story inspire us to continue to shout the story with our lives—even in the most abandoned corners of the empire."

Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution

"True Story invites us into the great narrative of the Scriptures. Grappling with the tough questions, James Choung provides a blueprint that will challenge the unbeliever, the new believer and the longtime church member to discover the fresh and healing message of the gospel. This book calls us to a relevant and real faith that properly redefines the call to evangelism as an ongoing journey toward shalom."

Soong-Chan Rah, author of The Next Evangelicalism

"James understands today's seekers and skeptics. He accurately describes their objections to Christianity and clearly addresses these objections in the Big Story. His invitation to join Jesus' missional community is both compelling and good news to all who hear it."

Terry Erickson, former national director of evangelism, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

"One of the most important theological conversations going on these days is about the shape of the biblical narrative. Not surprisingly, many leaders in this conversation are those working in the intellectual ferment of the college campus and at the intersection of church and the emerging culture. James Choung is one of these important voices, and this book opens up important new vistas regarding the story we find ourselves in."

Brian McLaren, author and activist

"True Story is for anyone serious about communicating the good news of Jesus in a thoughtful, biblical way which leans into—instead of running from—the pressing issues all around us in the secularized, post-Christian culture of the Western world."

Sam Metcalf, president of Novo, author of Beyond the Local Church

"The unchanging call for Christians to be salt and light, to be witnesses with an apt answer, is a great challenge in today's rapidly changing world. James Choung's winsome narrative, True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In, grapples with many questions of faith that seekers and also Christians wrestle with in this postmodern world. Choung demonstrates how as Christians we do not need a formula to be an effective witness for Christ; rather we need to honestly seek and engage the truth of the gospel in our own lives, and engage our friends with their questions, pointing them to the light and freedom of the gospel. . . . As chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, I have found no part of the world untouched by the questions of life and death, faith in the midst of the problem of sin and evil in the world. And I have also found no part of the world that is not in need of the whole church to witness the power, the hope and the life of the whole gospel to the whole world—starting with the people closest to us."

Doug Birdsall, honorary co-chair, Lausanne Movement

"Another book on Christianity . . . but quite different—written as simply as possible, never losing sight of the big story that Jesus Christ is the ultimate. This is a book for today's generation, seeking truth, satisfaction and fulfillment. It is an ideal textbook for student ministry and youth pastors."

Manfred W. Kohl, Overseas Council International

"In True Story, James Choung has recaptured the world-saving, life-transforming message of the gospel. In a way that takes seriously both the biblical message and the reality of our contemporary world, True Story takes you on a true-to-life journey of rediscovering the hope of Jesus that answers the most vexing issues of our world. While holding to an evangelical's commitment to holy Scripture, James challenges and dismantles evangelicalism's restrictive lenses through which we understand the gospel. And the result is a refreshing, relevant and compelling presentation of the good news of Jesus for our needy world."

Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi, author of Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World

"This insightful book offers a way of presenting the good news that fully engages with today's complex postmodern issues and questions simply by refocusing on the original message of the gospel of Jesus our Savior."

Peter T. Cha, professor of church, culture and society, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"It's the task of every generation to articulate and create languages and forms that connect with their generation. James Choung does this beautifully in his book True Story. I highly recommend this book as a fresh articulation and narrative of what is truly the good news! This good news is not just what we're saved from but what we are called to! It's more than a fire escape . . . it's a revolution of justice, advocacy and radical compassion. I'm in!"

Dave Gibbons, founding pastor, NewSong Church

"Some conversations consist of shared ignorance or are simply surface exchanges. The conversation narrated by James Choung is neither. It is thoughtful, honest and authentic. It does not gloss over sincere and profound questions concerning the content of the gospel and the way it is lived out, but grapples with many issues that arise in the give-and-take of a discussion between friends. Here is to be found good news that relates to the here and now as well as to eternity."

Eddie Gibbs, author of ChurchNext and LeadershipNext

"For a growing number of us Christians, the standard way we were taught to understand and share the good news message has felt inadequate. Choung's rethinking and recrafting of Christ's timeless call is exactly what we need today to present the gospel to a new generation of unconvinced people. His use of an engaging story to underscore the need for this fresh approach will motivate many Christians to learn this new approach."

Ken Fong, former pastor, Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles

"Finally someone has come up with a simple evangelistic approach that reflects the wholeness of the gospel. . . . The simplicity of Choung's circle diagrams is a welcome, refreshing, and much-needed approach."

Al Tizon, PRISM, May/June 2009

"Choung delivers a compelling, fresh look at what we consider the gospel—the good news surrounding Jesus Christ. He directs us to look anew at the way Christ shows us how to live and, from within a comfortable, fictitious setting, radically calls for a new definition of the gospel truth."

Kevin Alton, Journal of Student Ministries, November/December 2008

"Through True Story, you'll learn an effective, authentic strategy for telling the story of the Bible to non-believing friends."

Catherine Newhouse, Ignite, Winter 2009

"Emphasizing relationship over religion and loving over lecturing, this book will give you the confidence to share what you love about Jesus and let him handle the rest."

Dawn Paisley, Book Bargains and Previews, July 2008

"James Choung gives us a penetrating look into ourselves and our faulty reasoning. He challenges us to go beyond 'Sunday school' answers and wrestle with pain, sorrow, death and other strong issues that seem to be potholes on our journey of faith."

Tom Hodges, YouthWorker Journal, July/August 2008

"There is much to be commended in James Choung's True Story. Choung does not merely argue for the Bible's historical trustworthiness; he rightly relies on the Bible's content. Instead of beginning with 'something is wrong with you,' he begins with the fact that 'something is wrong with the world.' By beginning with the cosmic picture of a world gone bad, he is able to foreshadow the gospel that ends with a world renewed."

Trevin Wax, Kingdom People, May 2008

Read an Excerpt


Preface to the Signature Edition
Before We Start

Once Upon a Time
Prologue: A Crisis of Faith
Part One: Designed for Good
Part Two: Damaged by Evil
Part Three: Restored for Better
Part Four: Sent Together to Heal
Epilogue: New Beginnings?

Behind the Scenes
The Big Story: Why We Need It
Three Movements: The Direction of the Big Story
Not a Quick Fix: The Purpose of the Big Story
A Walk-Through: Explaining the Big Story
Sharing the Big Story



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James Choung

James Choung is vice president of strategy and innovation for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. He has been in campus ministry for over twenty-five years and previously served as InterVarsity's national director of evangelism. He is also the author of Real Life and coauthor of Longing for Revival.