Storytelling is an old form of communication. But it is not just for oral cultures. Even our written cultures connect with storytelling.
In Mark Miller’s Experiential Storytelling: (Re)Discovering Narrative to Communicate God’s Message, Miller is attempting to motivate and model this old communication form so that the church can reach today’s postmodern generation. He writes because he believes there is much at stake for the church. Listen to Miller,
“I believe in the church. Christ died for it, and the Spirit moves it. Further, it is the primary instrument God has chosen to use on earth. If that is not a reason to be more creative in our communication, then I am at a complete loss. . .I also hope that you can be a part of creating a culture of creativity in your church that will eliminate the restraints on innovation.” 75
In his daily blog, John Fischer has been challenging Christians to become collectors of stories! It has resonated with me. Read all his blogs or subscribe at his Fischtank. He writes,
Christians traditionally have not been very good story collectors. We have been so bent on getting a person to the desired conversion point that all questions are directed to that one end. Questions like: “Have you been washed in the blood?” or “Are you ready to meet Jesus?” or “Is there anything keeping you from praying to receive Christ right now?” are some common examples. In the process, I surmise we are not truly connecting to people, we’re connecting to freeing ourselves of guilt over falling short in our maximum witnessing program.
One of his readers wrote in about how she was making time each day to go out at lunch with her office mates and listen to their stories.
Well, witnessing may be the last thing on Kyra’s mind, but what is on her mind is far better. What’s on her mind is listening, caring and being a part of someone’s life. It’s connecting with people, and that’s a big improvement over “witnessing” any day.
Early in my missionary career, I learned that some people seemed to be overly concerned with “how many converts” we had, as if we could ever convert anyone! I found these questions disturbing on a number of levels. What pressure it puts on young missionaries in those early days when you are trying to survive learning a language and figuring out how to live well in a new culture. It led me to become even more pre-occupied with an already unhealthy performance mind-set rather than enjoying my relationship with Christ and allowing it to overflow into conversations with people naturally. And, I think that is not the question that we should be asking. Back to John Fischer,
When Christians “witness,” in evangelical speak, they’re most likely not connecting, they’re doing a job—fulfilling a task, completing an assignment someone told them they had to do if they were going to be good Christians. So how does being set apart, unconnected, and carrying out an assignment on people sound like something Jesus would want? It isn’t.
I’ve done the EE thing, the door to door follow-ups from various big public events but I am convinced that these are easy compared to the much harder work of building relationships with people. That takes time and an investment of myself that far surpasses going through a memorized “gospel presentation.” How I am grateful for the relationships and frienships that I have had over the years here. Hopefully, because I have been a good friend, loved them and listened to them, all of them have moved closer to Christ. Some have even become Christians. More from Fischer,
Instead of “witnessing,” let’s connect. Let’s find out how beautiful people are—what makes them tick… what are their hopes and dreams… what are their fears? Get them to talk about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their favorite movies… What we will find out is exactly what Kyra is finding out: we have more in common than we have differences.
So get ready to hit the rowdy road and meet all different kinds of people with stories to tell. Probe, don’t preach. Ask open-ended questions—questions that get them talking about their hopes and dreams and the journey they are on.
Have I been so busy with “my ministry” that I have not been hearing their stories? That is something I can work on.
Here are a few pictures with “stories” behind them.