The king had not been honest. He had worked the system to have a man killed so that he could have the dead man’s wife. How could the prophet confront the king without being killed himself? He told him a story. He engaged the king in a story about a man who stole another man’s sheep. When he got to the end the king was angry and the one who had stolen the sheep. “You are the man,” said the prophet, and the king could hardly reply. He was caught by a story.
This is my own rendition of the exchange between David and Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. It shows the power of story. Story has the ability to get past the barriers of our opinions and positions. A story has the power to shape values and spark action. A shared story can create a group or family. Conflicting stories can breed hatred and wars.
If I asked you who you were, you might start with a few facts—name, age, job, birthplace… But pretty soon you would have to start telling stories about your life. Why is that? I think it is because we are fundamentally storied-beings. Our stories define us. We live to create and tell stories. We naturally tell and hear stories. As children we learn the welcome of “Once upon a time” and the invitation of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” If something happens to us we are driven to tell others. This is why Facebook and Instagram has become so popular: we can all present the stories of our lives through pictures and status updates.
Stories make us human and shape who we are. We love the stories of books, movies, and TV shows. Stories captivate us. They also spread like facts do not. We retell good stories. This is why marketing is now storytelling. Some commercials are still about the products and why you should buy them over others. But the really good marketers are the ones who tell stories in their commercials. They often have no words and have few references to the products. Instead, they engage you in a story.
Ask yourself these questions:
What kind of story do you see yourself in?
What is the story of your church or organization?
How do you interpret your last few chapters?
What do you think will happen in the next chapter?
Leaders have the ability to use story to their advantage, or if they ignore the power of story a leader may find that they are telling stories somewhere else.