Christopher Vogler in his book, “The Writer’s Journey,” makes a profound statement. He says:
“Our stories have the power to heal, to make the world new again,
to give people metaphors by which they can better understand their own lives.”
The last part of that statement certainly grabbed my attention as my fellow Gospel Catalysts and I gear up for a September Preaching Camp focused on the importance of storytelling in communicating the Gospel. Vogler’s statement is an intense assertion and it is one that is indicative of the power that lies in a story.
The well-rounded preacher must be ever mindful that a story [when used properly] is as an effective tool for preaching. A story is not a replacement for exegesis. Rather, it is intended to enhance it. Bill Mooney and David Holt in “The Storyteller’s Guide” suggest that stories are how we learn. Consequently, many of the greatest voices of all time used them in their sermons. At some point or another, it is true that our sermonic aim matches what Vogler suggests stories offer: we preach to heal; we preach to make the world new again—we offer them a new life in Christ; and we preach to help people to understand their existential plight.
I recently preached a sermon called “Kingdom Priorities” based on a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34). The obvious point of the sermon is to teach persons to do as the Scripture says in Matthew 6:33: “seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness.” Rather than pad my sermon with age-old commentary, dissect Greek morphs, or throw out facts for no purpose other than to feed my own homiletical ego, I chose to end with this story:
Many years ago a package was sent from England to a South African town. The man to whom the box was addressed, however, refused to pay the delivery charges, and for fourteen years it was used as a footstool in the postal office. Eventually, the man died and the box was put up at an auction with other unclaimed articles. Out of curiosity a man bid on it and secured it at a very low price. When he opened it, he was greatly surprised to find several thousand pounds in English bank notes. Because the man to whom it had been sent refused to pay the comparatively small delivery charges, he had missed a considerable fortune.
It is not enough to just tell a story but skillful application must be shared. So, what did this mean to the listening congregation? Here it is:
So it is with us. He who refuses to meet the requirements of Jesus in regard to discipleship is even more shortsighted and cheating him or herself in life. What the Lord asks in regard to complete dedication may seem too much for the non-believer, but those who heed His call find He gives infinitely more in return than anything they are ever required to surrender for His sake. Make Him your priority. Pay the charges!
Guess what? They got it! Sermonic objective achieved! Many years into the preaching journey, I have come to learn that the people are not concerned with how many facts you share; instead they are concerned about how much the Gospel you preach can become real and personal to them. You never know who will be healed, whose world will be made new again, or who will begin to better understand his or her own life! So, as you tell Christ’s story, tell your story!