Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
When I was a boy, our pastor was Dr. Max Stanfield. That may not mean anything to you if you are not from Oklahoma, and now, if you are not really old. Dr. Max died in the dark ages when I was 13. But he was a marvellous preacher, and a wonderful pastor. He had been a college football player, and a collegiate champion debater. Above all else, I remember Max as a consummate storyteller. He used to tell the character stories in our two week Vacation Bible School. And he held hundreds of kids spellbound as he told the stories. In those days our church was growing rapidly. And Max was a very busy man. So it was not uncommon for Max to be called away when he was supposed to tell the story. And we were always terribly disappointed when someone else had to tell it. They just couldn't make a story come alive like Max.
As I said, Max died when I was 13. And yet the full length of my pastoral ministry, nearly 50 years, I told stories that I remember Max using in his sermons.” I am tempted to tell one or two of them to you now. But I believe Max would agree with me, that the most important stories you can tell in your preaching are directly from the Bible.
Telling Bible stories is a marvellous way of conveying truth. There is a biblical principle here. If I were to ask which parables of Jesus you remember, I would not be surprised if some of you could remember all of them. And I suspect, some of you could tell 20 or more Old Testament stories off the top of your head. Why is that? It is because good stories stick in your heart and mind.
I once heard Dr. Clyde Fant, Preaching Professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, tell about developing and cultivating storytelling skills for preaching, by telling stories to his children and grandchildren. Teaching children may be a mark of Christ-like ministry. And you can always find children who will listen to stories.
You may be aware that one of the greatest breakthroughs in missions in the past 30 years has been what is called Orality. Many of the yet unreached people groups in the world do not have a written language, or do not have the Bible translated for them to read. And many people do not read well, for one reason or another, even in America. Groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators are making great progress in translating scripture into new languages. But while they are learning the languages and cultures, they tell them Bible stories, and train new believers to tell the stories to others.
Frankly, I believe some of you would do well in your situation, to simply tell Bible stories for most or all of your sermons. This is actually a type of Expository Preaching. Have you ever heard R.G. Lee’s Payday Someday? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BZepT-czgU When I preached story sermons, I would do the background work I wrote about in a previous blog.
Tim Ahlen, (http://fmbcdallas.church/speaker/877/) Pastor of Forest Meadow Baptist Church in Dallas Texas, may be the ultimate practitioner of this method, although I know many people who know much more about it than I. I have heard Tim tell a Bible story twice for the same sermon, taking a few minutes in between to emphasize the main truths of the story. When I did this, and I did it quite a bit, I would explain to my people that I was telling the story twice to help fix it in their minds. And I would encourage them to tell the story to someone else that week.
Another friend of mine, J.O. Terry, (https://www.google.com/search?q=j.o.+terry&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS729US731&oq=J.O.+TErry&aqs=chrome.0.35i39.9404j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8) has developed Orality Networks across the world, and taught orality at Southwestern Seminary. He has done orality training in many countries with The International Mission Board, and through connections with other missions agencies. He teaches people to use groups of stories that relate to certain themes. In a recent email he wrote, “We are not necessarily trying to teach a single story, the use of longer story clusters helps to fix a story, it helps to increase the intensity or feeling about a story, and it tells the consequences or rewards of a key story.” Storytellers use his methods in many countries overseas. And they apply to the human condition everywhere.
I know of no better source for Bible Story Training for missions, and for preaching, than books J.O. has written. They include,
BASIC BIBLE STORYING,
GRIEF STORIES, good news for those with stories of misfortune and grief,
WATER STORIES FROM THE BIBLE: Stories leading to the living water and the invitation in the Bible for all to come and drink,
THE EBENEZER STORIES: discipleship stories for women,
HOPE STORIES FROM THE BIBLE,
STORYTELLING FOR CHURCH PLANTERS,
BIBLE STORYING, drawing the net, and others.
These are all available on Amazon.com.
Whether you use the stories as your entire sermon, or simply tell several good stories in every sermon, a good preacher will learn to be a great storyteller.