Creative Storytelling

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Lately, books, blogs, conferences, and articles have instructed us to change our communication style, because this postmodern generation learns through story. This is reported as breaking news, as if it’s a new phenomenon just discovered in this millenium. 

Aristotle said, “It is metaphor which most produces knowledge.”

Storytelling is not a new concept (Aristotle wrote Rhetoric over 2300 years ago). The call should actually be to a return to storytelling that is meaningful; to the use of metaphor to produce knowledge.

In the church of my youth, the sermon exposited the gospel reading of the day, explaining what it meant during the time that it was written. I learned a lot about Bible history, but never connected what was written on those pages with how I should live my life. Even when Jesus used metaphor, the story was explained as to what it meant then, not now. The metaphor was not transferred to present day, to aid me in diagnosing my own sinful condition as compared to the holiness of God and prescribing a cure.

Church communicators who translate this postmodern generation’s desire for storytelling into a need to show YouTube videos that are funny (http://bit.ly/1ahoiS) could be missing the mark. If you can fit a trunk monkey into your series promo or sermon to illustrate truth, go for it. But if you play it just for laughs, you haven’t told a story – you just added noise to the communication process that potentially blocked people from hearing the truth.

When you are creating your church’s promotional collateral, announcements, worship set, and sermons, do you think in metaphor? Do you consider exactly what word/picture/video/song would best communicate truth and produce knowledge to this generation?

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Application: In John Mark McMillan’s song How He Loves, one line says “So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” When David Crowder Band covered the song, this line was changed to “So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.” In an interview (full text found here: http://bit.ly/1ihiHj), Crowder said,

As the band researched the song, they found that churches had been put off by the term “sloppy wet kiss”. David says that some found nothing appealing about it. Others thought that the word “sloppy” should never be associated with a God who is so precise and engaged in the lives of His people. As a band, they had a decision to make.
“I was disappointed in this,” he confesses. “It’s a shame that many church settings are missing out on this because of those words. It means that the metaphor didn’t work for some people. Those who love the song already have it and have experienced it. So it was a no-brainer. I’m very careful with what we put in front of people that gives [them] an understanding of who God is what He does, how He interacts with earth, and this is one place that I would not assign sloppiness.”

No matter how you feel about the lyric, it’s the thought process behind the metaphor that is important. You need to know your audience and what metaphor will best communicate truth in your environment.

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