Storytelling and Mission

This post is the seventh post in a nine-part series reflecting on InterVarsity's Ambition conference. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage (Series: An Ambition for Mission)

"In every apple, there's an orchard."

This parable from Alan Hirsch resonated with us. Short, powerful, memorable.

And Kim Hammond told funny stories about his missional experiences and emotionally moving stories about his family. Pubs and hospitals. We remember these stories.

Shawn Young told stories.
Brian Sanders told stories.
York Moore told stories.
Everyone at Ambition told stories.

Stories move people. Missional mobilizers need to be master storytellers. And that skill takes years to develop. And we need it.

Here are some shortcuts to help you get started:

Don't get bogged down in details

"She brought a basket of muffins" works (this was an example Kim used). We don't need to know how many muffins or what kind of muffins they were or whether they were home-made or store bought.

Learn to say a lot with a little.

Think about your pacing 

Stories need to move steadily, smoothly and quickly. This doesn't mean that stories need to be short. You can tell a 2 hour story. People do it all the time (movies, for ex.). But if you're going to try, you better keep the story moving.

Land the plane

A good joke ends with a punchline (or several). And if you mess up the punchline, you mess up the joke.

The same is true for stories. Ending well matters greatly, especially if you want people to respond to your story, to move or act or think differently in response to what they've heard.

Ending well involves ending intentionally, ending clearly, and ending before your listeners are sick of hearing from you.


Stories have the potential to get us moving. We lean into them. React to them. Imitate them and run from them. We imagine ourselves in them.

All too often, our theology and ecclesiology have been coordinated around propositions and systems. In order to reinject mission into the conversation, we need good stories told well.

Seeds and orchards. Pubs and hospitals. These stories wield more power than a library of Christian books. They have more impact than a day's worth of exposition. They tug at our hearts and click at our heels, compelling us to move.

Why, then, do we shy away from story?

The next post in this series will focus on another practical application from the conference: Planting at Hispanic Serving Institutions. I'll post a link as soon as the post publishes.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:15 AM

    Thank you, Steven, for not shying away from opportunities to make Christ's love real through your life and your story!