If you are, say, a pastor or a church planter and you want to write a best-selling book or be a popular speaker you need to have a lot of good stories. Funny stories of your mishaps. Stories where you learn something important in an unexpected way or from an unlikely teacher. Stories that move people emotionally.
And maybe a person doesn't set out to be an author or a speaker. But something huge happens to them. Suddenly, they have this huge, dramatic story to tell. So a book deal comes along with the associated speaking tour.
None of this is bad, but our addiction to stories can be problematic. Emotionally and intellectually.
Emotionally, a captivating story can move you deeply. How many of us have listened to a speaker who just ripped our guts out with a powerful story? The seduction here is that by evoking strong emotions a story can make us feel, temporarily, like we've been changed. But we haven't. We've felt something deeply, but our habits haven't changed. Odds are, 48 hours after hearing that gut wrenching story, we are back to our old self.
Intellectually, stories can make you feel like you've learned something when you haven't. You might read, say, a church growth book. In the book you'll hear all sorts of stories about how this church went from ten members to ten-thousand. It's all very inspirational and motivational, all those stories, but when you put the book down can those stories be replicated in your own experience? Same goes for business and parenting books. Lots of stories of successes and failures, but little of it adds up to something concrete you can use in your own life. You're a different sort of person in different circumstances. Those stories can't be or won't be your stories. So after reading all those stories you're still standing at Square One.
In short, because stories give us an emotional or intellectual buzz I think we can become addicted to stories. Addicted to the buzz we find ourselves moving from story to story looking for the next mind-blowing or tear-inducing tale. And the Christian publishing and speaking industries are geared to keep these stories coming, to keep us buying and consuming more and more stories.
But in the face of all this consumption the question presents itself: How do we move from story consumption to spiritual formation, behavioral change and habit formation?
--from an unpublished post ruminating on how feeling moved and inspired by a good story so rarely translates into the hard sacrificial drudgery of Christian discipleship