The Power Of Story


There are a few people talking about the importance of storytelling these days at a time of a dramatic shift on a global scale to a more visual civilization. We can talk about how our minds are being rewired or programmed to deal with massive amounts of information and media, but the one true constant is the power of story. The power of storytelling transcends time as it used on a minute by minute basis around the world and fascinates those who are hearing the narrative – especially about other people. At it’s core, a story is about a fundamental conflict between subjective expectation and cruel reality. It’s the harmony of difference and about the resolve to work it out and come to resolution. A story unravels the highs, the lows, the difficult decisions, celebrates the accomplishments and takes it’s audience into a deeper meaning of the narrative.

Stories are effective. In 2002, Apple featured what the company referred to as “real people” who had “switched” from the Microsoft Windows platform to the Mac. The commercials were directed by the king of simplicity Errol Morris. While the spots Morris and Apple produced were distinctive they were not very effective, but they began a narrative revolution. Many companies mimicked and played off the concept of “real people” and “real stories.”

Then in 2006, Jet Blue put their spin on it and captured the stories of their customers recounting experiences in booths in cities across America; Emily Steel reported on it then in The Wall Street Journal. All together they ended up with 2000 or so video testimonials describing their airline. This campaign became highly profitable for Jet Blue in time of financial trouble after 9/11. What made this work is the people in the ads were real and individually spoke to someone like them. Admit it! We like people who are like us and they shape our experiences.

What if the church could grasp how effective stories are, every church in America would be packed right? So my question is this, how do you think the church should use the power of story to further the kingdom?

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. You are RIGHT ON Matt!

    warrencomm // Reply
  2. Totally agree. I think that a big problem the church has with story telling is that it is obsessed with imitating the story telling of the main stream media. Our stories are different, and in most cases more powerful. Our story telling should be tailored to our stories, not the other way around.

  3. I think churches need to make an effort to be intentional about storytelling. Reformat the weekly Bulletin, if they still have one, to include a storytelling elements like a brief testimony and head shot. How about changing all promo videos to tell stories instead of just giving the four W's. My experience and research finds that a good story is better than a good, factual promo video or someone telling you what they think you want to hear. Churches need to quit recreating the wheel and go back to the tool of the Master which is "STORYTELLING." In many ways, churches have focused to much on the cultural wave that they lost their own unique voice. They lost their brand, their market place, and created fractured communication and presentation. Churches need to shift to less distraction and greater content. Or to put it another way, in the words of my dear friend Kem Meyer "Less Clutter, Less Noise". Genuine communication that is simplistic wins.

  4. […] don’t believe the power of story is dying. I believe story is a live and doing quite well. However, I do believe we had reached a […]

  5. What is scary is how closely the Apple ad from '02 mirrors the Windows Ad's that just came out.

    Stories (or at least good ones) take way more energy than more standard presentation. Being simple is much more difficult than noise. The problem is churches are often straining already, so the energy required for a story format seems daunting. Yes?