If that still isn't enough to convince you to become a biblical storyteller, consider this specific biblical example of what a good story can do...

In 1 Samuel 17, the Israelites are despondent, and their king is fearful; an entire nation cowers before the giant Goliath. But then something happens: a shepherd boy stands before King Saul and tells a story: 

"Master," said David, "don't give up hope. I'm ready to go and fight this Philistine." 

Saul answered David, "You can't go and fight this Philistine. You're too young and inexperienced—and he's been at this fighting business since before you were born." 

David said, "I've been a shepherd, tending sheep for my father. Whenever a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I'd go after it, knock it down, and rescue the lamb. If it turned on me, I'd grab it by the throat, wring its neck, and kill it. Lion or bear, it made no difference—I killed it. And I'll do the same to this Philistine pig who is taunting the troops of God-Alive. God, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine." 

Saul said, "Go. And God help you!"  (The Message)

What just happened? A powerless follower entered an organization in chaos, and when he got his chance to stand before the CEO, he changed the boss's mind with a story - moving the boss to action (and yes, the boss delegated away a crucial duty, but that is something we can discuss another time). 

The right story at the right time transforms the hopeless, and creates heroes among the nameless masses. 

Seriously. Stories are that good. 

Some final thoughts from successful storytellers: Stephen Denning, now a senior fellow at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership and formerly a program director at the World Bank, calls storytelling "the secret language of leadership," and wrote a 2007 book by the same title. Howard Gardner, famous for the concept of multiple intelligences, wrote in his 1995 book Leading Minds that great leaders told stories "about themselves and their groups, about where they were coming from and where they were headed, about what was to be feared, struggled against, and dreamed about" (p. 14). 

Great stories - the ones that change us - tell us who we are, what we are up against, and where we are going. The Bible is full of such stories. Let me suggest that if you really want to influence people (leadership at its most basic level is influence), you will help people understand who they are, where they are going, and how to overcome obstacles. The Bible's stories do all of this for the people of God. So parents, lead your families. Students, lead your friends. Pastors, lead your congregations. And do it by telling great stories from The Good Book. 

Stan Ward is a teacher at The Brook Hill School in Bullard, TX, a non-denominational Christian boarding school with a three-fold mission: to provide excellence in college preparatory education, affirm the gifts and challenge the potential of each student, and encourage students to honor God through Christ-like character. Stan is also a doctoral candidate in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University. He lives in Bullard with his wife and two daughters. Check out Stan's "Napkin Theology" videos at youtube.com/napkintheology, and follow along on Facebook at facebook.com/napkintheology. You can also visit his website at www.stanleyjward.com.

Original publication date: June 7, 2010