Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Storytelling Matters

I have been taking a break from reading books from the shelves in the bookstores with placards sitting on top of them reading, "Christian Inspiration," or "Religious." I have been taking a break from these and instead, I have been reading stories. I must admit that I was a little concerned when I first realized my lack of interest in the more formational books that I often read. This week, I have been reading The Shack, and the jury is still out because I haven’t finished it, but I like what I have read so far. I read a Stephen King book a few weeks ago called Duma Key, and I read Cormac McCarthy's latest book, The Road a few months back. All of these stories draw the reader in, and this is key.

A few weeks back, I read Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What. In this book, he talks about Jesus like a friend would talk about another friend that he really loves and admires. Sort of how the disciples might have talked about Jesus to their friends that hadn’t met him before. The reason I love this is because Miller discusses Jesus in ways that reveal he knows Jesus, and is known by Jesus. I found myself really believing him when he talked about Jesus as if he had met him for coffee that morning. Storytelling matters.

I wonder if when we talk about Jesus, or tell stories about Him, if we do a good enough job of telling the Story? One thing I learned in seminary is that there is an art to storytelling and that this is a dying art. This is why when we meet good storytellers, we remember this about them. We tell others things like, "you have to hear this person speak/preach/tell a story," and we love to hear them recall accounts of an adventure, a mishap, or a funny situation. We hang on their every word. I think this is a gift, but I also think it is an art, something we can work at improving.

Have you ever wondered why some people think church services are boring? Is it the message that is boring? Maybe, but probably not. I think it has more to do with the delivery and the way the Story is told. Rob Bell is going to be hosting a conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan in a few weeks called Poets Prophets Preachers: Reclaiming the Art of the Sermon. If you are a pastor and don’t get excited about this kind of thing, you should be slapped in the face, splashed with cold water, or something of the surprising nature should happen to you.

In his book, Leap Over a Wall, Eugene Peterson asserts that God primarily chooses to communicate with His people through the re-telling of His Stories. In the Old Testament, the word “Remember” is written over and over again. At Passover, the youngest child is encouraged to ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Why, so the people will remember the Story by retelling it, but also believe it. Isn't this one of the primary reasons we preach, so that others, along with ourselves, will remember and believe?

Storytelling matters, and this is why we need to reclaim this art.

(Below is a picture of the Melanesian Brothers and Sisters telling the Story of the Prodigal Son)


Jason said...

Good post Brandon. I actually had a few paragraphs banged out which preceded my post from earlier this week regarding the sermon at our church on Sunday. It was along the lines of "To get and keep my attention during a sermon, the speaker should do a) and b)..."

Then I read it and thought maybe it was the critical nature of my flesh categorizing some sermons as better than others, so I deleted it before I posted. Obviously, the Word is perfect, but the delivery can still make such a huge difference.

The Bohemian Philosopher said...

I am a skeptic in regards to religious matters, but what I can say is that, there is a certain something, a certain magic, that goes with storytelling. In past ages story-telling was an important aspect of life. More than anything we are losing the "personal" feeling of storytelling. We are relying more and more on complete strangers to tell us stories (directors, authors etc..)

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