At MAF they are experimenting with a radical new form of discipleship called "storytelling." This revolutionary approach uses the technology of human voices to transfer meaning in the form of Bible stories from one person to another. This method is reportedly cheap, effective, and very simple. I decided to do a case study to evaluate the effectiveness of this new method and test its practical impact in a real-life situation:
Organized Rec time just finished at the Salvation Army Youth Center, and the energetic kids spew into the small sanctuary for chapel time. The pews quickly fill with upwards of twenty chattering kids, bouncing down the rows and cackling loudly.
Their energy is soon channeled into two songs sung loudly at the top of their little lungs. Twenty small vocal chords all blending together in praise makes quite a racket raised toward God's ears. I imagine the laughter between the verses is just as appreciated.
I go up to share the story for the day, from 1 Kings 17. Elijah is nourished by a poor widow who has barely enough for herself, and God replenishes her food store. A simple story, really. I ask Cassandra to come repeat what she heard from the story. She comes up and repeats, detail by detail, an almost perfect retelling of the story. I thank her and allow her to select a prize. We review the details of the story, finding the treasures God has put in it for our lives. They note interesting questions from the story: where did the widow get water if there was a drought? Did they have metal at this time? Some I do my best to answer. Others I have no idea what to reply.
I sit down and wonder if any of them “got” the story. If it will have any impact on them or how they live. It's a story thousands of years old, tweaked so many times as it is retold, written, translated, and finally told again thousands of years later. The cultures, ages, and understanding of those people and the squirrely kids at the Salvation Army are so far apart.
I look over and see Ben fiddling with one of the prizes I selected. "Where did you get that?" I ask suspiciously. "Those were only for the person who helped me retell the story."
Cassandra gave it to me, he tells me.
Maybe they did learn something.