I am first and foremost a Secondary Bible Teacher. I love being a Bible teacher. Even as a principal of six schools, I always taught some Bible classes. Almost invariably, I started my class periods with a story. Sometimes it was the Bible story we were studying made to come alive through details from the scriptures, Ellen G. White, and Bible commentaries. Often the class did not guess the origin of the story until near the end. Many other times it was a modern story that related to the theme of the day. In almost every school I have taught in, at some point the students have come in, looked expectantly at me, and then asked, “What is the story today, Sir?” We are wired to enjoy stories and they often make the point better than anything else.
As we noted at the beginning of the series, Jesus loved stories and utilized them almost every time He spoke. He understood the power of story as a teaching methodology and shaped His stories to capture the attention of the audience. Ellen White tells us that as he told the story of the sower, the crowd could actually see a sower hard at work in the distance. It felt real to them. It was familiar and they easily picked up the take-home message.
I think of the advice I received when I was studying Theology: Capture the attention of your audience, make your point, make the application, and sit down. Sadly I have sat through numerous sermons where my attention was not captured. I struggled to work out the real point and the sermon felt very long. If we are wanting to reveal Jesus, we need to make sure our message is pertinent and ensure we have caught our audience’s interest. As my Practical Theology lecturer used to say, “A sermon to be eternal does not have to be everlasting.”
I suspect some of the most memorable sermons you have heard were short, story focused and powerful because of those qualities. I remember a sermon I heard several years ago. The pastor shared a parable he had made up. It went for all of 15 or 20 minutes. He gave a minute or so of application at the end and sat down. It was powerful, thought provoking, and life-changing. Just like the stories Jesus told.
So spend some energy looking for those powerful stories. Develop good story telling techniques. Capture your audience’s attention, whether you are in your classroom, school chapel, or staff worship. Then spend time crafting the tightest of applications and conclusions so that you can conclude quickly and effectively. Staff worships can be a good place to start practicing.
Imagine the power of a strong story with a one-line application. They will remember the story. They will reflect on the application throughout the day. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the Master Storyteller. Let the power of story become your mode of delivery. Let your story be His Story.
This article is last Part of the Series The Power of Story.