Tell Me a Story

When the prophet Nathan told King David a story of a cruel and greedy rich man, David “burned with anger” (2 Sam. 12:5, NIV) toward the offender. When Nathan revealed that David was the villain in the story, the king could make no defense. The story was the spiritual equivalent of a knockout punch.

Stories have a beautiful way of sneaking up on us with the truth. This is one reason they are such effective teaching tools. A good story can unlock all the deadbolts, chains, and defense mechanisms we use to shield ourselves -- and swing the door wide open.

Stories come in many forms.

Personal experiences are a good place to begin. Just be sure that you are using truly interesting and applicable stories. Rely on feedback from trustworthy and honest friends on this one.

Others’ experiences also work well -- examples from people you know or from biographies.

Songs contain stories. By the end of the song “Cat’s Cradle” by Harry Chapin, we clearly see the principle of reaping what we sow. Country and Western songs often are told as stories, and some Christian artists such as Carman, Ray Boltz, and Don Francisco are known for their story songs. A song can grab the attention of your audience as an opener or hammer the point home at the end of a lesson.

Poems unlock doors of understanding too. The classic poem “The Spider and the Fly” depicts the steps of deception that ensnare the gullible fly. It illustrates the devil’s tactics in a way that even a child can grasp.

Humor can disarm your listeners, lowering their defenses. Make sure the humor has a relevant point -- otherwise it can detract and distract.

Short stories are powerful tools. In the story “A Scrap of Red” from his book The Mystery of the Word, Mike Mason has fictionalized an account of Christians faced with the choice of death or denial of their faith. It says more than a thousand sermons. Don’t limit your stories to those written by Christians. “The Selfish Giant” by Oscar Wilde is a beautiful short story dealing with the transforming power of Christ. Ray Bradbury, in his chilling short story “The Veldt,” deals with parental neglect of children and the dangers of technology and imagination. As you come across great stories and passages, file them away topically for future reference.

John Green
© 2006 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists