“I’d like to tell
you a story …”
On 9 February, at three services, ranging quite significantly in formality, I delivered my first narrative message: God’s Mysterious Plan. I chose the lectionary reading from 1 Corinthians 2 focusing on verse 7:
The wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God – his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.1 Corinthians 2:7
The message delivery went quite well. I felt relaxed and the congregation were warmly receptive. I am sure they were surprised as hearing a narrative-shaped message was certainly new and unusual to them.
Although I did not get to sit with the 8 am congregation as they ate morning tea (and discussed the service – and the differences they perceived – I think it is important for me to reflect on some of the differences, I’m aware of, from what they are used to:
- I used more slides – about 9. These slides were mainly either a picture or a quote from the story, “The Eternal Author’s Mysterious Story”. The slides also recapped the main points.
- It was unusual for the congregation to hear a children’s story that had been woven through the message.
- Narrative preaching does not have the same feel as an exegetical sermon – I feel it may be hard to perceive that there is biblical teaching occurring, even though teaching is woven throughout the whole message.
- Starting with the dilemma or conflict, as recommended by Eugene Lowry, was good. It immediately engaged their attention. As Lowry suggests, they were trying to work out how I was going to get to the conclusion.
Of course, when I announced that the story told during the message was actually a printed children’s book that they could take with them – that got their attention. I feel that they loved the book. I did receive feedback from some parishioners about the books. Things were said like,
“I read your book. It is great. My kids I teach would really love them. Can I read it to them to my Scripture class at school?”From a Scripture teacher
“I really loved your book. I’m going to leave it at home for my wife to read.”A parishioner
So, overall positive feedback was received regarding the first book. I proceeded to place the books in the Op shop, in the church foyer, on the tables during Coffee Shop and also gave some to the Emergency Relief team to be placed, discerningly, in the grocery bags offered.
When I discussed the ‘story-style’ of messages and evangelism, I did discern a moment of concern. It related to a connotation that I had not originally identified.
When someone says “I love telling stories” or you comment about another person “they are a good storyteller” or “they tell stories” – all these phrases have the connotation that the person tells lies, or they make up stories for an ulterior motive. I had not recalled that ‘alternative’ meaning to the use of ‘story’.
That said, when I was looking for other words to use, other than the word ‘story’, I considered a ‘tale’ – but immediately dismissed it because ‘telling tales’ is all about lying.
So, I am currently working on how to navigate that connotation – especially when stories are told during a message. I now say upfront, “my stories are always based on a true story!”
I am so looking forward to hearing and seeing the fruit that comes from these stories. After praying over the books for three weeks, I believe the anointing of the Spirit of God is on them to carry the good news of Jesus into hearts and homes of the community at Southlakes.