Stories can change us

filmandfaithblogathonnov7-9.jpgPicture this. You’re about to leave on a trip to Vegas, and two people stop to give you advice. The first says “Be careful who you talk to. You can’t trust everyone you meet. It’s a crazy place!” The second stops and tells you this:

“A friend of a buddy of mine went to Vegas a few weeks ago, and you’ll never guess what happened. He was out at this bar when this pretty woman came over to him and started talking. She actually offers to buy him a drink, but that’s the last thing he remembered until he woke up in a bathtub filled with ice in some hotel. There was a phone nearby with a note on it that told him not to move and to call 911! When he called and explained, the operator asked him to feel behind him and see if there was a tube sticking out of his body. There was! The operator told him not to move and that an ambulance was on it’s way. These people had stolen his kidneys!”

Which person’s advice will stick with you? Which is more likely to change how you act – maybe convincing you that everything staying in Vegas isn’t such a good idea?

We all (hopefully) know that story’s one of the oldest urban legends in the books. But it endures because it sticks with its audience. Someone can tell you to be wise, but the story lets you feel the results. And those feelings can actually change the way we act.

I think that’s why Jesus told stories. He wanted his hearers to feel the point – to wrestle with the implications of his statements. Most of his commands weren’t spelled out in a list of rules. Instead, he pushed the status quo and challenged people to think.

Who do you think has more influence over society today? Politicians? Churches? Or the entertainment industry? Things like movies and television impact what we believe and what we do. I’d argue that most people get their way of living from movies. We get our values from the examples we see around us. What seems normal in relationships is what we see on screen. That can be good or it can be bad, but the fact is that films, urban legends, and a homeless prophet and revolutionary all have something in common – they take us somewhere and make us feel a point. And when we feel, we remember. Stories set standards.

In a culture that values facts, it’s easy to neglect the power of stories. I work in a church environment, and when I teach, I want to teach like Jesus taught. I want to tell more stories. We need fewer three point answer messages and more narratives that engage the hearer in the bigger story of God’s work in the world. Andy Stanley denies the idea that people’s attention spans are getting shorter. Folks will sit through three hours of a Lord of the Rings movie. Sermons may need to be shorter, but they may also need to work on better engaging people’s hearts and imaginations.

I could share more, but I want to hear. What stories move you? What types of movies do you love? Why? What themes get you thinking, feeling, or moving to action?

Other posts about movies at Live. Work. Play:

*A friend of mine is holding a blog-a-thon on film and faith. This is my humble (and last-day-possible) contribution.

One response to “Stories can change us”

  1. I think your Andy Stanley quote is true. Our attention spans aren’t getting shorter. And I think if anything else, we also have more choices…so if it’s going to take up our time it better be “worth it.” Which I don’t think neccesarily just means entertaining.

    In fact, I like how your post brings out the concept of “engaging.” I think that the stories & sermons that will grab our attention and influence are the ones that “engage” us…our hearts, minds, and souls.

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