The Power of Story

I’ve always thought there had to be a pretty compelling reason Jesus told stories all the time. I mean, He was God. He had infinite powers, infinite understanding, infinite ability to say just the right words to make people do what He wanted them to do.

And He chose to tell us a story about an outcast who saves the life of his enemy. A story about a poor widow who gave everything she had to God. A story about a rebel son who ruins his life and is welcomed back by a loving father.

With everything at his disposal, Jesus chose to communicate the most important truths about God and His relationship with us by telling a story. 

I was reminded once again this past week of the tremendous power of a simple story. Every fall my professional and personal life comes to a screeching halt as I pour my time and energies into a walk-through drama at my church known as Judgement House. Despite the name, it’s not a haunted house or anything of the sort. It tells the story of 2-3 individuals in the final hours of their life and follows them into their eternity, showing how their choices in this life affect their future in the next. This year’s script focuses on the horrible effects of bullying and the destructive power of thoughtless words.

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Cold pizza, caffeine, and exhausted expressions. The trademark look of Judgement House. 

I’ve been involved with Judgement House for over 10 years in various capacities, but the last three times I’ve taken on the daunting responsibility of being a tour guide.

Not only do I move the group from scene to scene, I also have to memorize around four pages of script that ties the story together between scenes. It’s extra special this year because I get to lead tours with my fiance. Praying and serving Christ together is an incredible experience!

On the one hand, it’s an unbelievable amount of time, work, and stress. I helped lead over 11 tours last week for a total of 14 hours (including eight hours on Sunday) and will pull even longer hours this second week. But each year thousands of people come through the doors of my church and hear the Gospel for the first time.

Watching people experience a simple story, identify with the characters, and for the first time truly understand who Jesus is, what He did, and how much He loves them, makes all the sore feet and long hours totally worth the struggle. 

I can’t tell you how many times people have told us that they’ve known about Jesus their whole life, but never clearly understood how to have a relationship with him. Others didn’t know anything about Him at all, and were stunned to comprehend the sacrifice He made for them. Still others come away with a deeper appreciation for their faith and renewed passion to share about Jesus with others.

One of our tour guides, John, first met Jesus when another tour guide, a 75-year-old spitfire named Linda, took him through the Judgement House drama  several years ago. This year his daughter brought several college friends to go see the drama, and each of them made decisions to accept what Jesus has done for them.

Words have the power to change us. Story has the power to change us. 

Every year, people’s lives are transformed by this drama. Nearly every baptism service someone testifies that they prayed to accept Jesus after going through Judgement House. It’s not because it’s a particularly stunning presentation (all 400 people are volunteers). We know that.

It’s purely because once again Jesus is using a simple story to teach people who He is and how to connect with them. 

So, this week I’m setting aside my to-do list. I’m letting the manuscripts screaming to be edited sit on my desk. I’m marking down my emails to be answered later. Why?

Because I know the power of a simple story. I know that I’m a part of telling a story that will change lives. I know that I’m helping write a chapter of the greatest story ever told.

And that’s more important than any job or to-do list.

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