The power of story
I read two very good stories whilst I was away. The first I had not read since I was at school – 30 years ago (ouch, that hurts!). It was George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I suppose studying it at school had put me off. But I enjoyed it second time around, even with such a gap. It’s very simply written, but has pace and flow that grips the reader. Simple, yet very effective.
The second book was Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey. No, not that one! It predates the infamous EL James novel and is another clever, gripping story – not unlike Animal Farm as it describes life in a totalitarian state. It is more involved than Orwell – characters are more developed and the story is more complex. But it is gripping nonetheless. I like Fforde books – they make me laugh and are good holiday fodder. This one is more thoughtful; sadly it was not a commercial success so there is unlikely to be a long promised sequel.
Both illustrate the power of story. When well written and pacy, stories captivate the imagination and carry the reader or hearer along. That’s also how Bible story works – whether Old Testament or New Testament. The stories are well written and captivating.
Which makes it all the more strange that so much narrative preaching robs the text of colour, pace and life. It’s not an easy thing to do to preach narrative well. But – at the very least – we as preachers have to work hard to preserve in our sermons something of the colour and involvement that the text generates. For story is powerful. And whilst preaching is more than story telling – much, much more – it is certainly not less.