C H A P T E R 1
The Creative Storyteller
“One might think a deductive sermon into existence, but story sermons must be thought and felt into existence. Deductive sermons march with the precision of soldiers at boot camp; narrative sermons dance their way into the world.” — D a v i d A . E n y a r t 1
“With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.” — M a r k 4 : 3 3 - 3 4
The Creative Storyteller speaks to help people visualize something.
The target is the listener’s imagination.
Think Max Lucado.
Similar styles: Engaging Humorist, Unorthodox Artist, Persuasive Motivator, Inspiring Orator
Words that describe this style: Clever, charming, childlike, clear, right-brained, talented, entertaining
You might be a Creative Storyteller if…
• you see a movie and, by your captivating description of scenes, can make others feel as if they were there.
• outlining is secondary to the flow of the message.
• you’re more concerned about resonating with the heart than the head.
• your listeners feel as if they know you and your family inside and out because of the compelling stories you’ve shared.
About This Style
Russ Blowers, a long-time minister in Indianapolis, was also active in the Rotary. Each week a different club member would briefly introduce himself, including his job and responsibilities. But Russ thought it sounded so bland and boring to say, “I’m a minister.” When it was his week to introduce himself, Russ stood up and said the following:
Hi, I’m Russ Blowers. I’m with a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We’re into motivation and behavior alteration. We run hospitals, feeding stations, crisis pregnancy centers, universities, publishing houses, and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death.
We are into life insurance and fire insurance. We perform spiritual heart transplants. Our original Organizer owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere. Our product is free for the asking.
Our CEO was born in a hick town, worked as a carpenter, didn’t own a home, was misunderstood by his family, was hated by his enemies, walked on water, was condemned to death, and arose from the dead. I talk with him every day.2
You would assume that Russ’ explanation was one of the most memorable. Rather than spouting off a linear list—name of church, location, years served, and so on— Russ told a story that captured interest and opened the door for questions and counsel in the months to come.
As you lead a Bible study group or preach from a pulpit, never underestimate the magnetic appeal of a well-told story. You can effectively cast a spell on your listeners. A mesmerizing account can have an overwhelming spiritual impact on people, and many people need stories to help them understand some truth. Clark Tanner says, “Points are for the head; stories are for the heart.”3
Storytelling makes your message more memorable. Sometimes when I speak for a main convention session and am following with a workshop on preaching, I’ll do this exercise: In the workshop, I’ll ask the audience to repeat the key points of my previous session’s outline. Usually a few can, but honestly most can’t. Then I’ll ask who could retell, for example, the bungeejumping joke I opened with. Every hand goes up. I ask, “How many of you think you could repeat the story I told about the elderly lady in Cincinnati?” Again the hands go up. “How about the story about my son Samuel’s first day at school?” I ask. Once again, all hands go up. This is the value of stories.
No wonder creative storytelling is becoming one of the more popular styles. In Creative Anticipation, one of the best books available on storytelling and narratives, David A. Enyart offers this oneparagraph explanation of this style’s effectiveness:
With [narrative preaching], the listener reasons alongside the preacher, moving simultaneously toward conclusions. The narrative sermon arrives at a universal thesis toward the end of the message, rather than asserting it at the beginning…Induction creatively pulls the hearer onward with an unresolved conflict or unanswered question. With inductive sermon designs, speaker and listener walk side by side in search of God’s answer to a specific problem or conflict.4
In Laughter, Tears, and In-Between, Paul S. Williams shares an example of the power of stories from his own life:
I remember Dad lying next to our beds telling stories about cowboys Jim and Jiggles to my brother and me. I never knew he was making up the stories line by line as he told them. I just lay there breathlessly, glancing every now and then at my Hopalong Cassidy watch, knowing that although it looked bleak, somehow in the next ten minutes the good guys were gonna win. A gasp from my brother would send Dad down one story line. A yawn from me and he’d yank out a subplot. To me the stories seemed well told, with characters perfectly developed in love…
I speak often on camera, as well as to small audiences and large audiences around the country. I get nervous before I speak, but I settle in when I tell the first story. The stories don’t illustrate my points. They are my points.5
Again, the message of this book is just to be yourself! Some may have great gifts of creativity but don’t do well with narratives.