I recently had a fascinating and fun Facebook conversation with a friend about story telling.
We bantered back and forth for some time while others chipped in with their comments.
In the end, we agreed to disagree.
People are hungry for stories.
People throughout all cultures love stories.
Stories are ageless.
The Bible is a Treasure Trove of Stories
Now here’s where the Bible is an enormous help. It is literally a treasure trove full of stories.
In fact, there’s a story either on or behind every page.
However, an inexperienced or lazy preacher will often just preach the text, the principle or the insight instead of burrowing into the scene to truly discover the tale behind the text.
I think this is very often the case when preachers speak from the New Testament epistles. At times they cherry pick texts or passages without considering the what, when and why of the story that lies couched beneath the surface.
For instance, very few preachers stop to consider the powerful story of Tychicus accompanying the runaway slave Onesimus back to Colossae and the mounting tension as he reads Paul’s exhortation concerning slaves to the church that meets in the home of Philemon, the master of this runaway slave.
Also the epistle of James is transformed when you overlay the stories of James, the half-brother of Jesus. He was infamously one of the family members who called the Messiah insane.
No wonder he writes so hyperbolically about the sinful vagaries of the tongue!
Learn How to Tell a Story During a Presentation
Eugene Petersen gives us the main key to learning this skill when he writes about being “at home” in the story.
Being “at home” indicates familiarity, comfort, recognition, knowledge and ease.
In other words, before you tell the story, you immerse yourself in the story by imagining the scenes, hearing the dialogue, feeling the emotions and allowing the story to unfold.
Even acting out the story can add another dimension to enlivening the story as you consider the interactions between the key characters and hear, rather than read, their dialogue.
In fact, the dialogue in Bible stories gives us significant clues as to what the original narrator is trying to tell us through the story.
Also, updating the story into a twenty-first century setting in your locale can help connect your congregation to the story, making it more relevant to them in a whatever world.
Deliver From Memory
When delivering the story, always do it from memory.
While key points can be listed in your notes don’t rely on them, and only use them when you know you have lost your way.
Only read a story to your listeners when you are reading a Bible story.
Actually, I generally prefer to utilize a read/tell/read/tell style when unpacking a Bible story.
Never, ever read out one of your own stories or someone else’s story. Instead tell them the “movie” that you have playing in your mind.
I think that’s almost as bad as saying “Let me tell you a story”.
I wonder if my friend reads out her stories?!?!
Discover more about my thoughts on preaching in my book, Preaching in a Whatever World.