Adventures in Online Cross Cultural Teaching Part 3
I love teaching about the power of narrative. The stories of Scripture have always been my portal of choice into the deepest truths of our faith. One of my favorite theologians said, “What Jesus did was as authoritative and as much revelation of God as what he said and taught. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the act of healing became a text by which a true theology of the Sabbath was revealed.” Neuroscience is confirming narrative’s power to evoke empathy and identification and allow us to take new perspectives. This podcast ( https://www.npr.org/transcripts/795977814) illuminates the concept of narrative transportation, whereby our minds really do enter a different realm and mode when we are swept away into the world of the story. We relate to the dilemmas even of characters we may not like much. That imaginative immersion is fostered by vivid scene painting, leaning into the tensest moments in the plot, and lively dialogue.
Even more than teaching on the concept of narrative, I love empowering students to excel as storytellers. A few of them walk in already conceiving of themselves as natural storytellers, but many surprise themselves with their ability to be creative in response to some of the tasks I hand them. One such challenge I give is to bring a fresh and lively retelling of a story from Scripture, from the perspective of a minor character—and not necessarily a human! In previous courses, I have enjoyed hearing one of the lost coins narrate her journey from stuck deep in the recesses of the bedsheets to found and treasured by her ‘lady,’ and I relished hearing a stone in a creek-bed describe the day it was pulled out and engaged to knock out Goliath.
My students in Malaysia rose to the occasion like champs. Karen became Aaron’s rod, recounting her many adventures in Egypt and the wilderness. Sheela spoke as Peter. She deftly sliced open the dejected moment when energy and hope was flagging in the upper room, shortly before the Holy Spirit came, then she walked us through his transformation to passionate preacher at Pentecost. Janice became Judas’ coin purse, and narrated with poignancy the moment she listened to her owner scoffing at the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, and had a sense her master’s heart was headed to a dark place. A few of them added creative backgrounds on Zoom—Janice spoke with this one:
 Anderson, Ray, The Shape of Practical Theology, Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2001, p. 13.
Later, in other speeches, we worked with the more deductive skills of teaching an aspect of Christian doctrine, persuading listeners to act towards justice and mercy in our communities, and bringing a word of wisdom and care into the challenges listeners are facing in the pandemic. But we all agreed that the storytelling challenge was our favorite!
If you would like to sharpen your own skills as a storyteller, these are some of my favorite resources:
Buster, Bobette, Do Story: How to Tell Your Story so the World Listens https://www.amazon.com/Do-Story-story-world-listens-ebook/dp/B00CT3JW6E
MacKenzie, Alice, Making a Scene in the Pulpit https://www.amazon.com/Making-Scene-Pulpit-Preaching-Listeners/dp/0664261566
McKee, Robert: Story https://www.amazon.com/Story-Structure-Substance-Principles-Screenwriting-ebook/dp/B0042FZVOY
Willobee, Sondra, The Write Stuff https://www.amazon.com/Write-Stuff-Crafting-Sermons-Convince/dp/0664232817/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+write+stuff+preaching&qid=1598146573&s=books&sr=1-1
Wright, John, Telling God’s Story https://www.amazon.com/Story-Structure-Substance-Principles-Screenwriting-ebook/dp/B0042FZVOY
Rich and Lisa Lamb