Storytelling is an art form as old as culture itself. Before the written word, information was shared through the spoken word, and if it was important information, it would be shared within this ancient art of storytelling. This way it would be remembered and passed on to others. Storytelling was the beginning of the Bible, as we know it, before someone decided to put ink to scroll (or stylus to tablet) and preserve these stories. Through the centuries we’ve adjusted our encounters with these stories to become engagement with the written word and study within the context of a classroom or sanctuary. This engagement moves more linearly with the goal of preaching being to teach the lessons of the texts. To do this, points are drawn and laid out in such a way as to lead to a conclusion. A linear sermon is aimed at the listener’s mind. To have faith in these types of sermons is to have faith that the ideas presented are true. (“Thinking in Story: Preaching in a Post-literate Age by Richard A. Jensen, C.S.S. Publishing Co, Inc. Lima, OH 1993.)
The preacher crafts the sermon with the goal of sharing the Biblical story in ways that will relate to our everyday experiences. Sometimes this is done in the form of storytelling, but most often it is not. Usually it is shared within the context of one or more personal narratives that may, or may not, relate directly to the text. A sermon can also be filled with facts or relevant information that relates to the text. Again, this is to appeal to the listener’s mind. To craft a sermon as a story is an appeal to the heart and the mind through an encounter with the listener’s emotions. Biblical Storytelling can encompass the entirety of the chosen text. It takes a special effort, a great deal of study, an understanding of human emotion, as well as the human condition, and the ability to tap into the hearer’s imagination. A well-crafted story will take the listener to another place and time. It will drop them into the midst of the action as the story unfolds. It requires the preacher to think in stories instead of ideas. This is a new language of discourse when it comes to the field of homiletics, or preaching. But, really, it is a return to an ancient language of discourse, one that is every bit as old as the texts we revere and study each week. A story isn’t complete until the listener lets go of the ‘now’ enough to place themselves within the narrative.
For the month of October and November we’ll endeavor to unlock some of the Bible’s unique stories in ways that allow us to enter into the narrative and explore these sacred texts from a first-person’s perspective. I’ll be utilizing the art of Biblical Storytelling to (hopefully) bring these stories to life for all who gather to worship with us. Join us and prepare to suspend the ‘here and now’ in order to gain a new perspective on what God is up to!