When someone says, “Let me tell you a story,” you wait in anticipation to hear about the characters, plot, climax, and resolve … or punch line in some cases, but when you recognize from the onset that you are hearing a story you’ve heard before your anticipation fades and your interest dissipates. Don’t you hate that?
You got all excited to hear something new and then “bam” like a ton of bricks the potential of boredom hits you! Isn’t it like this sometimes when you hear a preacher begin his/her sermon? You’ve heard the scripture before but you hope for a new insight, fresh perspective, and an unknown plot to arise but it never happens.
You almost can preach the sermon yourself because you already know the major points that the preacher will lift from the pericope as well as how he/she will do it. Well young preacher, don’t be this way! You can learn now how to retell a story with pizzazz.
As preachers we have to remain culturally relevant while relaying the Gospel to God’s people; in order to do so, we must exercise our imaginations. Here are a few exercises for you:
1. Take a look at Isaiah 6:1-5; imagine telling the story of the text from the perspective of a cherub, the coal touching Isaiah’s lips, or the temple experiencing God’s train filling it.
2. Take a look at John 4:1-42; imagine telling this story from the perspective of the well, the water, the mountain, a returning disciple, or a person in town overhearing the woman run through the city and testify.
When retelling a story from a nontraditional or least expected perspective anticipation and interest peak up again. You give life and voice to a person or thing that wasn’t penned in our great Bible which could be considered blasphemous in some contexts but extremely creative and engaging in most.
When watching a television series or movie, or even reading a book, you should ask yourself, “Are there any similarities between the characters, plot, and/or lessons from this series/movie/book and a Bible account that I am familiar with?” More often than not you’ll find someone or something in the Bible that can be related to a mainstream film/book in pop-culture; therefore, allowing you to make a current connection for your congregation to relate and become a part of the text.
I have learned that I am not a good storyteller when it comes to preaching, meaning I don’t know how to drop a story into a sermon that somehow relates to the point I am trying to convey (there are plenty of other preachers who rock at this). I do, however, have a comical personality and I love to reenact an experience in life to make people laugh.
I enjoy making people say, “Wow! I never thought of that.” As a result I began to hone in on my “storytelling” skills, which involve seeing the unseen or hearing the unheard in a text. One sermon that I cannot live down to this day is, “The Untold Story.” In this sermon I preach from the perspective of Job’s wife, whom I affectionately name Jobbette, and share what she must have felt or thought as she watched her husband go broke, her 10 children die, friends talk about her, calling on a seemingly silent God, and then birthing 10 more children at the end of the book of Job. Everybody cannot think of relative, attention-grabbing stories to intertwine in his/her sermon but everyone can practice retelling the story/text with pizzazz if they can just see “it” from a different POV.