Reflect on the things from your childhood that made you who you are. What made the most impact? If you were fortunate enough to grow up with grandparents nearby, what legacy did they pass on to you? How did they do that? Chances are their stories played a significant role in the family culture.
I have been privileged to live in a number of different countries and cultures. Something I have noticed in each country is the way that stories seem to reveal the culture. In developing countries, the personal stories and clan stories are shared around the fire or community gathering. These stories are the vehicle that helps transmit what is important for the family, the culture, or the nation.
I have found when sharing in other cultures that it makes so much difference if I can gather some stories from that region and use them. The power of their own stories is immense. That is what Jesus did. He used the familiar things of the Jewish culture to bring the kingdom of heaven alive. Do we do that when we are wanting to pass on what is important to our family? To our church? When we share about the things of eternity?
In developed countries, it may not be so much the family stories as the multi-media stories that capture and absorb the attention of the new generations. These stories still pass on what society values, however. Movies, computer games, and other media in the developed world are all capturing stories and sharing the values that this society wants to transmit, which is a sobering thought.
We also pass on our church culture through stories. Some of the most powerful stories I have heard have come from young people as they shared their testimony prior to their baptism. These testimonies pass on our church culture and inspire and encourage others to make a similar decision for Jesus.
Unfortunately, there can be a danger in personal testimonies. Sometimes testimonies accentuate the poor choices that the individual made, with little focus on the change that Jesus has now made in their lives. We can run the risk of glorifying the less than desirable and making young people think they have no story to share unless they have behaved wildly. That is something we do need to be aware of and avoid. In Deuteronomy and Joshua, there are over twenty reminders from Moses connected to stories urging the people to “remember and do not forget.” These reminders are typically linked to a story of God’s salvation action in their history. Our testimonies should always be focused on God’s saving action.
As teachers, do we utilize the power of story as much as we could? Do we share our values with our students through story? Do we highlight the good? Do we highlight God’s action in our lives? Remember and do not forget.
This article is Part of the Series The Power of Story. Watch for Part III next week!