Storytelling expert Steven James says one of the keys to effective stories is to trust them to do their work without trying to explain or analyze them for the listeners. He writes: “In nearly every book on public speaking and preaching I’ve read I see the same advice: ‘Tell ’em what you’re gonna say. Say it. Then tell ’em what you said.’

“That might be a good way to teach someone how to bake a casserole, but it sure stinks when it comes to telling a good story. Maybe that’s why Jesus never did it. Not once. Instead, He spoke in metaphor, story and imagery that appealed to curiosity and imagination. He didn’t preach three-point sermons; He preached one-point sermons—and most of the time He didn’t tell people what that point was!

“Jesus rarely explained His stories, in fact only once in Scripture are we told specifically why Jesus told a story (Luke 18:1), and only a couple of His story explanations appear. Jesus trusted His stories to do their work in the hearts of the people listening. This leads us to one of the great paradoxes of education: The more you explain a story the less impact it has. Think about it. Haven’t you heard someone use a great illustration and then spend the next 30 minutes draining all of the impact out of it? We end up diminishing rather than expanding the impact of a story by explaining to people what we think it is supposed to mean.

“I’m not asking you to leave your listeners constantly confused, just trust them more to connect the dots. Jesus trusted His story to do its work in the lives of His listeners. He almost always wrapped truth up in mystery. We can do the same.” (Click here to read the full article on Steven’s website.)

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