Stories are the bridge connecting people and generations. There’s magic in story. Magic to transport us, to immerse us, to move us. Magic to reset the condition of our souls. I believe story can be the common language that invites the hearts of people to tap into what really matters most.
Roughly 33% of Jesus’ teachings come in the form of a story. And often, He didn’t even explain to His followers what the story meant.
Jesus the Storyteller
How did he communicate? What are the common threads that wove themselves through most of his tales? There are many commonalities, but perhaps these are the most powerful:
1 | Accessibility
The characters in Jesus’ stories were real. They messed up. They made bad decisions. Sometimes they swore, were immoral, cheated and lied and stole and chose the wrong path. Just like we have. Just like we sometimes still do.
The settings and backgrounds were familiar to His listeners. He talked about sheep and farming and fishing; about business dealings and eating and family relationships.
Jesus told stories where people from all walks of life could find themselves in the narrative, even if they had a different faith background, or no faith at all.
2 | God is a character in the story.
He’s not called “God.” He’s a “father” or a “judge” or a “vineyard owner” or a “farmer” or a “shepherd.”
He acts in the story in ways that are at times mysterious or even frustrating. He’s real. He’s active. He’s up to something, even if the other people in the story (or the listeners, for that matter) don’t know what it is.
Jesus paints a picture of a Father who is so involved in the lives of people that He shows up in every situation in real and tangible ways.
3 | A surprise or twist. In almost every story Jesus told, something happens that you don’t expect. And it was usually something that would have scandalized the listeners of His day.
A father runs and gives his coat to the returning son who had told his father he wished he were dead and then spent a third of his dad’s money on “wild living.”
People who only worked an hour get paid the same amount as people who worked the whole day.
The banquet preparer un-invites his distracted friends from the great party and instead orders everyone else to be invited instead.
Jesus told stories that made people feel something—anger, remorse, conviction, hope.
If you tell a story, and nobody outside your tribe can find themselves in it, it’s only propaganda.
Avoid culture-specific phrases or inside jokes, making the story approachable by people who don't even know you.
God as a character in the story.
When we tell stories, we do so with the belief that God is part of the story in very real and tangible ways.
Magic exists in the world. Miracles happen. Unexplainable, mysterious things take place all of the time because God is active in the lives of humans.
We recognize God’s place in every story. He is good. He is at work. And He is on the move.
Make people feel something. When people feel something, they will be motivated to act., to give, to get involved. Perhaps even to join you in the cause you are passionate about.
Let’s be storytellers. Let’s tell stories like Jesus did. Let’s tell good stories that are beautiful and true. And those stories will become the common language that connects the imaginations of people with the heart of God.