In Cor Deo we have been enjoying the benefits of an approach to engaging biblical story known as “storying.” Coming from the study of oral cultures and the field of orality, storying is a mine of ministerial potential currently somewhat restricted to missiologists in non-literate cultures.
Forgive my brevity in description, but storying involves bringing a group of people into the experience of a story through the process of telling the story and having them re-tell it so as to enter in to it. In our setting we have found the Cor Deo participants discovering the interpretational value of extended exposure through the re-telling process. We hear it, re-tell it, critique and correct together, then repeat the process.
What does this have to do with preaching? Well, for one thing, it re-affirms the challenge we have when we seek to communicate a story to listeners and we only tell it once. A cursory overview of a story is simply not enough. People may get the bare bones, but storying tells us that a group needs greater exposure to a story before they are engaging it fully. As preachers we may not be able to go through the group interaction of re-telling story, but we must tell story well enough, in sufficient detail, with enough time, so that listeners have a hope of the story forming in their hearts.
But maybe there’s more than a subtle reinforcement of my “please tell the story and tell it well” theme. Perhaps we need to consider how to help listeners inhabit the experience of a specific character? Perhaps one idea might be to re-tell a story within a sermon, inviting listeners to imagine the events from a different perspective. Perhaps there is potential in this idea of re-telling stories within a sermon. Perhaps there is scope for listeners being less passive in the re-telling process, even within a sermon.
You might enjoy chasing the various approaches to storying and orality-based ministries – not only as a prompt to prayer for the pioneer mission fields, not even just as a source of potential ministry ideas for outreach to certain subcultures on the fringe of your church, but also as a potential nuancing of approach and nudging toward creative effectiveness in your own preaching of narratives in the church.