What if you went to church and the preacher, instead of preaching, just told stories? He should be fired you say? You wouldn’t go back to listen to him you say? Yet, this is how Jesus often taught – and there never been a greater teacher than He! People would ask him a question and He would tell them a story in return. “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.” (Matthew 13:34). Why did He teach this way? He must have known something about the power of story.
Jesus did not tell “off the wall,” “off color,” disconnected stories or jokes to “warm up” disinterested audiences. In the stories He told He was always driving home a point his hearers needed to learn. The stories He told were always for the purpose of leading people to believe in Him and to understand the nature of the kingdom of God. And people listened to Him gladly. We need more who teach like he did!
How do you learn most effectively? What kind of preaching captures and holds your attention? Would you rather listen to a well-told story or a complex logical argument filled with syllogisms and endless references to scripture used to prove or disprove arguments. There is nothing wrong with citing scripture, of course. I know that for some people, this is the ideal of preaching, but most people are not trained logicians and are as likely to be persuaded by the best speaker or by the personality or appearance of a speaker as by the persuasiveness of his arguments.
A few preachers master the art of preaching through stories but most never do. One who did master it was the late Bill Cavender who was loved and highly esteemed by many for the simplicity and clarity of his sermons. He used numerous stories of ordinary people and events to illustrate the point he was making. One might wonder where he was leading, but he always “brought it home” in such a way that everyone got the point.
If Christianity were based on a complex system of doctrine it would be mandatory that learners be capable of mastering the intricacies of logical argument. That would mean that most people would be left without a hope of salvation because most people are not trained to think that way. Salvation is by faith – faith in the person of Jesus – not in a system of doctrine. All that is essential for salvation is that we believe in Him as the Son of God who loved us enough to die on the cross to redeem us from sin. That faith will then move one to be obedient to His commands, trusting Him for the results He promised.