“There’s no place like…” “May the Force be…” “Life is like a box of…” “To infinity and…”
You probably recognize those incomplete movie quotes, finishing the sentences and even picturing the scenes in your mind. The words may stir up emotions, ideas, or memories. They are woven into the fabric of popular culture. While the phrases may express important ideas, it’s the story surrounding the ideas that connect with people in such memorable ways—this is true of great moments in history too.
“I have a…” “Four score and…” “We hold these truths to be…”
Stories are powerful. They provide an interpretive framework, a relatable experience, and a memorable hook for personal connection. A story can communicate truth in the historical sense or in the conceptual sense, like the parables of Jesus. In both of those ways, stories possess a unique power to connect with people in a way that facts and ideas alone do not.
For example, if I tell someone that God is love, even if they want to believe it, they’ll need stories for proof that the statement is true and for explanation of what God’s love looks like in real life. Telling someone that God loves them is a profound truth. It may be a perfectly-timed reminder or desperately-needed thought. But sharing stories of how God has demonstrated His love for people throughout history, especially through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and how you’ve personally experienced this love is more likely to be transformative.
Nearly half of the Bible can be categorized as narrative—ranging from historical accounts to teaching through parables. In fact, part of what helps us rightly understand the theological and moral teaching of Scripture is the context in which it was written. What was happening in the lives of the author and the people to whom he was writing? What was the bigger story? What was the intended message? Questions like these are foundational to hermeneutics and “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Consider the verse quoted in the previous sentence. Part of the reason these words have been passed down from generation to generation, guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is that we know the story surrounding them. Thanks to Luke’s historical narratives in the Book of Acts, we know who Paul and Timothy were, how God transformed their lives, and what He did through them to spread the gospel among specific communities at a specific time in history.
As a disciple and a disciple-maker, the importance of story is essential. It’s one of the main ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. It’s how we relate to one another as well.
The importance of story isn’t just a preference or trend in disciple-making methods. It’s part of how God has made us as humans. Consider the following excerpt from a recent church newsletter:
“Friends, we are narrative beings. Our lives are shaped around story and so much of our faith is strengthened by discerning, remembering, and retelling what God has done in each of our lives. We are also communal beings. Andrew Root writes “Story is the formative experience of relational personhood, and to share our story is to invite others to share in our being. When I hear your story, I share in your person.” Part of growing as the Body of Christ is making space to share our stories with one another—stories of pain and loss, stories of celebration and joy. Doing so opens ourselves up to being ministered to by one another and by the Holy Spirit. It also builds our faith. Hearing how the Lord has worked in your life not only strengthens your faith but mine as well. I need to be reminded of the Lord’s goodness and presence through your stories. It is that testimony that builds the Body of Christ and is a witness to the world of God’s love.” (Matt Busby, Pastor in Chattanooga, TN)
What might God be doing in the lives of people around you? The people you lead? The people you meet? The people you live and work with? How might God’s story and your story transform their stories? How might their stories affect you, too?
Certainly, there is a time and place for statement of truth. But we live in a story. Theological and moral truth is more readily listened to and easier to understand and apply when wrapped in stories—especially those of personal experience.
Consider how your preaching and teaching will resonate more deeply when biblical concepts are presented with their historical context. Think about how your disciple-making can be more effective when biblical concepts are shared in the context of personal experience and relationship.
Lead others, love others, and learn from others… through the powerful connections formed by story.
Share Your Stories
We want to hear your stories! What is God doing in and through you and your ministries? Where are you seeing life change? Tag us in your posts, pictures, or videos at @RootedNetwork on Instagram or Twitter and @ExperienceRooted on Facebook.
Rooted Network wants to help you and the people you lead understand and share gospel stories. “Share your Story” is one of the “7 Rhythms of a Disciple” introduced and practiced in our 10-week group-discipleship resources: Rooted and Life in Rhythm. You can preview a free sample of each of those resources now. We also want to provide you with this month’s free resource: How to BLESS People with Your Story. Simply provide your email address below to receive the free downloadable PDF.