Christian storytelling is rooted in the ancient Jewish tradition of telling stories. In telling the story, its reality and power are made present to the hearers, so that by entering into the story they experience its significance and power to shape their perspectives and the living out of their own stories of faith.
Storytelling is an art that needs to be developed in today’s churches. Storytellers succeed through using dialogue, developing action and plot, opening up the imagination, and learning how to tell the story well. The following entry is one pastor’s account of the transforming power of story in his own preaching. Its original title, “Spinning Yarns,” suggests the necessity of retaining the first-person perspective because the best stories are our stories—stories told from personal experience.
ow does an artist share his faith in a genuine way? How can a singer use her talent as a communicator rather than a performer? Two key elements are a strategic vision and a servant’s heart. First, a strategic vision develops from the artist’s clear idea of the goal that he or she wants to achieve, an idea which then organizes and informs every step toward that goal.
When people go to worship, whether in groups or alone, God designed them to need to exercise their imaginal intellect as much as any other dynamic of their being—including their rational intellect. When people worship God alone, they “practice” focusing their faith toward God through the gate of their imagination. As they couple their imagination with their intellect, they will imagine the unseen realities they "know" are true in Scripture.
Art is a part of life. It is not something people can choose to omit from their lives. Artistic expressions—imaginative human expressions—are more than a form of human communication. They are the substance, the amniotic fluid, in which human relationships live and grow—human-to-human, and humans-with-God.
This preconceived concept about art, and its relationship to the Church, does major damage to the Church’s ability to pursue artist expression as a means for making worship central to the mission of the body of Christ. Church leaders need to reject this modern view of artist expression, which excludes the imaginative realm of metaphors, symbols, and human expressions (or signal systems), and come back to a biblical view of the arts. In doing so, they will find new vitality for worship as the central agenda of the churches.
Given the orientation Protestant theologians have concerning the mind, the characteristics of the imaginal capacity of human intellect are sometimes lost. It seems that the Protestant community somehow takes a one-dimension view of that the human mind is only given to rational and information ideal. Certainly, a life of faith will often move on past what seems rational to the “average person.” And, even the thoughts and mental engagement involved in worship itself encompasses much more than rational exercise or information.
The reality of the content of the gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son, the righteousness of God whose death paid the penalty for my and your sin—1 Cor. 15; Rom. 3) does no good without connection with the giver of the gospel. And artists are specialists at creating environments wherein human creatures can connect with their creator.
When evangelization happens in its fullness, culturally appropriate and sensitive communication is crucial. In many parts of the world, due to lack of literacy, such communication will be through artistic or imaginative expression. Music, drama, storytelling, painting, architecture, mime, puppets, crafts, festivals, movement, ritual, and on and on, are all forms of artistic expression.
Cooperation in ministry is essential if we care to position ourselves before the Lord in such a way where He might choose to use us to impact our communities, our region, or our nation for Christ.