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Why Stories Matter

Jesus told stories during His three years of adult ministry on the earth. During that short time, he had to teach a message that wouldn’t simply change people during His lifetime, but transform the world for ages to come. If you had faced that challenge, what would you have done? Most pastors I know would start with a mission statement.

Then they would outline their doctrinal principles and statement of faith. Then they would find a building, preferably one with good parking and the ability to expand. Then, realizing the need to leave a legacy in the faith, they would start working on their theology and perhaps throw in a handful of leadership principles and church-growth tips.

Then they’d be ready. But it’s worth asking the question on the famous bracelets: WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) Jesus did what many pastors in that position would probably consider a real career killer. He started telling stories. And He told stories that He didn’t even explain. Sometimes He would enlighten the disciples in private, but rarely did He say the words in public, “Now let me tell you what that story means.” Plus, the stories weren’t that profound. They didn’t involve kings or princes, wars or major conflict, and they certainly weren’t particularly deep. All the wonderful elements that make great legends were left out. There weren’t even any epic tales of heroes and damsels in distress.

Most of Jesus’ stories were just everyday people doing everyday things. They weren’t particularly exciting, romantic or even thrilling. Why was Jesus ready to risk only three years of ministry by telling simple stories?

Good question. What’s your answer?

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  1. I think He told stories for the same reason good speakers tell them: stories connect. You recall the story long after the speaker’s words fade. You can place yourself somewhere in the story. You can ponder the conflict and its meaning, often in your own context. If lectures and lists and three-point sermons really touched people, Hollywood would film them and folks would flock to theaters. Or not.

    But…Jesus DID have a clear mission statement. His stories always had a purpose,

  2. I think when a story gets its roots into your heart and comes packed with a purpose you believe in, it will compel you to act.  To repeat it.  To align with it’s mission.

    And I think it’s key to realize Jesus poured into people, not buildings.
      People that would be compelled to act through obedience to the gospel and see Jesus change hearts.  And that changed heart = a changed life. For eternity. 

  3. Human beings are wired for stories. They provide a compelling vehicle so you not only understand a particular message, but want to act on it.

    Over the years, I heard countless sermons and presentations regarding impoverished children, heard endless statistics in World Vision commercials and the like. But it took watching About Schmidt to persuade me to sponsor not one but two children through Compassion.

  4. Great thread! People love stories. That is why movies are so popular today. They allow us to vicariously experience the life, trials and victories of someone else. They let us to feel, not just think about what someone else may be going through.  Our emotional memory is much more permanent than our intellectual memory. And I believe that is what great stories, like those of Jesus, tap into. 

  5. It was those simple stories embalmed in the Omnipotent power from on high that made ” the ordinary story” a story that had the power to penetrate and convict hearts to make man evaluate their present condition under the power of the Spirit. Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time in ministry yet the supernatural impact it had was immense. Each story Jesus told had a Divine purpose and, since God knows our frame, each story was hand picked to yield the intended fruit in people’s lives.
    This cannot happen in the natural but as we all yield to the Spirit the seemingly simple everyday conversations can turn hearts toward the Lord in ways beyond our imaginations. Today, God is willing to use the least likely vessels to bring about lasting change for the Kingdom. Out of our bellies can, and should flow the Living Water and words in due season.
    Valerie Caraotta

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