I grew up in a culture where sitting down and sharing stories is fundamental to how the culture does business. You don’t rush things. You don’t get straight down to business. You spend time just sharing stories. Growing up in Papua New Guinea, there was a word in Tok PisinI, my first language, that captured all that: tokstori. Tokstori – is both pronounced as talk story and also is a literal translation of the word. The word conveys culturally the importance of sitting down and sharing or simply chatting as the most effective medium of communication and relationship building.
Matthew reminds us that this was the way that Jesus communicated so effectively with His audience. Matthew 13:34 says, “Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, He never spoke to them without using such parables.”
Jesus showed the power of story in Mark 5 with the demoniac man. The man had received no Bible Studies. He was in a Gentile area that had not been permeated by Jewish culture and their view of God. He had not sat in even one religious meeting. All he had was one encounter with Jesus. But that was enough. When he pleaded with Jesus to go with Him, Jesus told him “No.”
Instead, Jesus told him to go home and tell his family everything God had done for him, and how merciful God was. Did it work? On the next visit, recorded at the end of Mark 6, Jesus was recognised at once and the people ran throughout the whole area to bring their sick for healing. The man’s story had been shared, and his story was powerful because it was both his story and His story.
I well remember an earnest theology classmate of mine at Avondale declaring passionately that he would never waste time in his sermons with stories. He was going to get to the heart of theology and keep his congregation growing on information only. With my own background, I could not imagine having a sermon without some stories. Sadly, that individual is no longer a pastor. I must confess that I find stories within sermons very helpful as a member of the congregation. It helps me in the application of the message. It also reengages my interest if it has been lagging.
The purpose of Adventist Education is to reveal Jesus. It is top of our agenda and focus. How do we do that effectively? By living it and sharing it meaningfully. While we should be offering excellent education, that comes only as a result of our revealing Jesus first and foremost.
Story is also important as we reveal the work of Jesus in Adventist Education to the Adventists in our communities. We need people who can share their own stories within our communities of how Adventist Education helped to connect them to God.
I am reminded of the perspective that the church pastor at a university shared with me. He has committed to having 50 stories shared within the student worship programs. He sees the power of the personal story. What is your story? How often do you share it?