Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. Yet what is the church missing when it comes to storytelling?

Matt Knisely

Matt Knisely is an Emmy Award–winning visual storyteller, creative director, and author who loves telling stories of the extraordinary. Make sure you check out his book Framing Faith, it helps connect the seemingly unconnected, see the beauty right in front of us, and revealing how to be present in the moment.

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  1. I agree with storytelling being a powerful way to “put ideas into the world today.” Even if a church does great at storytelling, one of the biggest hurdles is taking it beyond an inspiring challenge and mobilizing people to do something specific. I think churches most often often fall flat at having a clearly defined action to take after hearing the story. I also believe it’s symptomatic of a church’s leadership typically being unfocused. Just playing the ball here, not any particular person(s).

    • Great points. The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. I think to many times the church aims for perfection an thus missing the mark of truly moving people to action. I can tell you anytime I have a conversation about story-telling, people immediately think about elegant, clean, and polished. The reality story-telling is organic, messy and unpredictable. Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.

      As storytellers we leave out the not so nice parts, that we think people don’t want to hear and by doing so it lowers the authenticity. It’s like the bullets we see weekend in and weekend out, they are merely stats that lose legitimacy by expecting the audience to accept the facts. Facts are meaningless without a contextual story, a real world hook and pull to reality. The bottom-line is the facts of teaching are not dialog. Admit it, once you hear a percentage, stat, or a story that doesn’t relate your eyes gloss over and you slip into a short catatonic state until you’re awakened by someone or something. Using facts kicks in the confirmation bias. The proof and action is in story in my opinion.

  2. a good story, and in fact we have the best story, but we do a really bad job letting the story tell itself instead of us try to re-tell the story.

    • Do you think that churches need to unleash their subject matter on to experts (staffers) en masse because there is no longer one single voice? I think so, by empowering staff as trust agents they could activate them in multiple channels at once, but they may need to equip them in how to create a compelling narrative.

      • true. I guess what i also wonder about is there a right way to tell a story. I know that there are techniques (at least Don Miller says there are) but does someone have the right or wrong way of telling a story? Part of it I think is that the story tellers in the church and not giving the chance to help tell the story. Instead the executives and others are holding onto what is being shared.

        But you do have the people who are amazing storytellers. They captivate an audience a group or an individual every time they open their mouth. And then there are people who can barely keep you captivated with anything. So I wonder if this should be examined as well? You know, how well do you tell a story? Or do you look at it as you should be able to tell a story that has captivated your life. So a story that you are living right now (the redemptive work of christ) is one that everyone should be able to tell and share.

        Just some stuff I wonder about

        • Story-telling is messy it’s not meant to be perfect. Most story-tellers were not born story-tellers, it was something they morphed into. There are techniques we used them all the time in TV and can be applied in communicating the gospel very easily.

          There is an adage: The loudest person in a group is the “Leader” and think that can apply to story-telling. “The person who rivets the most peoples imagination or mind is a “story-teller”. I disagree with that; just look at the viral videos on You-Tube. Story-telling in my mind boils down to this we buy on emotion and justify with fact. The by-in of the gospel are the redemptive narratives of the audience, the true improvisational narrative expressions of God.

          • which could be the very reason why storytelling is struggling in the church, because the church is being defined by a pastor and a building instead of a body of Christ

  3. The church is missing an understanding of context and voice

  4. Yes, we have the best story. But maybe the stories we tell are actually aimed at our peers for recognition sake, rather than to actually reach the lost.

    Raul Cabrera // Reply