Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.

Matthew 13:34

 

In Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator, they highlight Jesus as a master storyteller and share this ancient story to highlight their point: “An old Jewish parable describes Truth arriving in a village on a wind-swept night, shivering and bare. At every door, she begs aloud to be let in, but not one is opened. Her nakedness and destitution cause all who see her to wince and turn away. When the old shepherd, Parable, finds her, Truth is huddled alone on the edge of town. Pitying her, Parable takes Truth in, tends to her needs, and clothes her in story. So dressed, she returns to the homes in the village. Door after door is opened wide, and Truth, now garbed in story, is received with welcome and joy” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 99).

A man sitting at a typewriter in the middle of a busy street.Though the exact number of parables spoken by Jesus is hard to pinpoint because of varying opinions on what is considered a parable, what is clear is that Jesus was committed to using various forms of storytelling during his three-year ministry.

Storytelling is just as important today as it was for Jesus’s listeners. Pastors like me are being encouraged to look at our preaching as a way of telling a bigger story, instead of simply reciting biblical facts and imploring people toward ethical behavior. Perhaps you are a business leader and are finding it necessary to “tell your story” as you pitch investors or even your own board. We all realize how significant the 20th century was in creating and flourishing incredible “new” media of storytelling: newspaper, radio, television, music, and films to name just a few. Now add to that the limitless possibilities of the 21st century with the internet, digital books and music, virtual reality, texting, and the conglomeration of all of these technologies in our everyday lives.

If we want to follow Jesus and be good storytellers, it means much more than being good verbal communicators. We have the opportunity to be good storytellers in our spoken, written, visual, and various digital communication media that we regularly use.

So as we continue to explore what we can learn from Jesus as a revolutionary communicator, we will find that becoming a storyteller is something not just meant for pastors and professional speakers. Storytelling is a way to reach the young and old and everyone in between. Storytelling is something that touches the heart and mind of every human being. And tomorrow, we’ll consider how we as leaders can grow in our storytelling abilities.

Something to Think About:

“In a media age, we assume that… good stories decorate effective communication. In every age, the truth is… good stories deliver effective communication, and facts mean virtually nothing unless they are part of a story” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 92).

Something to Do:

In a staff meeting or gathering of leaders coming up, make time for sharing some stories. Consider this prompt: “Share a story from your childhood that still impacts you today.” It’s amazing what I’ve learned from staff, parishioners, supporters, and friends when I’ve asked a simple question like this.

Prayer:

Jesus, help me to learn the importance of being a storyteller like you, so that truths about the life you offer will be embraced. Reveal to me the ways that I am already a good storyteller as well as the places I can learn to flourish in this area. Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13)