I see a dearth of storytelling power, almost an absence in our current public life. We have become a culture of three word slogans, name-calling, distortion and manipulation.
This summer, I decided to preach a series of sermons in dialogue with children’s books. I heard another pastor last year at the Mercer Preaching Consultation in Chattanooga tell about the joy of doing such a series, and I wrote a note then that I wanted to try it.
I will have a Pastor’s time with the children in every service, and we will read from a children’s book. I will post top lists of books for children on our church website for parents, including a list from the New York Public Library list of the most read books over 100 years. Some will be biblical stories for children, but most will not—still, the truths of the Jesus way are everywhere and not always labeled that way, in my own experience. A good story that is true is always worth telling–and hearing.
I will connect the story each week with my sermon that day that illumines a story or character in the Bible. I think we should manage to have a joyful time together in worship, and think about important truths together. Throughout this series, I want to provide abundant recommendations and resources for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles about the urgency of “telling stories.”
The heart of the Christian way is a story. We declare truths like, “Jesus died, but now is resurrected,” but the power of our way is better told in a story, as in John 21:
3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
Jesus told stories to invite his hearers into the world of the Kingdom of God. Still today, whether Star Wars or a mother telling a 3 year old a story about their family for the eightieth time, stories form us. If that is true, we’d best be the master storytellers if we would captivate the hearts and minds of the next generation.
A recurring phrase in the present political campaign is, “controlling the narrative.” That is a phrase primarily about redefining “reality” for voters. Sad to say, in politics at present, the storytelling is more like my mother used the phrase when she said, “Are you telling me a story?” Lying about reality is not good narrative. I see a dearth of storytelling power, almost an absence in our current public life. We have become a culture of three word slogans, name-calling, distortion and manipulation.
Good stories don’t confine the truth, they lift it into view. When we hear them, something deep in us says, “That is right. That is true. I want to be more like that.” And sometimes it says, “Learn this lesson.”
We need stories. Mothers and Dads reading to their children are the future not only of our nation, but of all humanity. That’s why I am doing this series. I want to encourage our young parents and their families to invest enormous time in reading, telling stories, and especially the Christian story, again and again. Before a better politics, a better neighborhood, a better family life or a better world, you have to get the story straight.
I decided to start with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day. Might as well face up to life with an unblinking eye….
for more about Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, visit vhbc.com