3 things Jesus can teach us about storytelling
The Son of God knew how to tell a good tale
From stories about lost sheep to lost coins to lost kids, Jesus Christ was a masterful storyteller who used insightful narratives and carefully-crafted prose to relay deep spiritual truths to His audience.
He often used parables — simple stories about simple topics — to deliver profound lessons about generosity, humility, the dangers of greed, the folly of pride and how it’s possible to love the progeny who demands his inheritance, squanders it on earthly spoils and then returns home with his tail between his legs (Luke 15: 11-32, otherwise known as the parable of the prodigal son).
Those stories endure to this day. You can find them in the Bible. And while yes, you should use them for spiritual development, you can also pick up some valuable lessons on communicating your brand story effectively. Here are three to consider.
Jesus knew His audience
You remember those laughably awful 1970s “Jesus” movies that depicted the Son of Man as an emotionless and monotone killjoy wrapped in fair skin and flowing hair?
Yeah, the real Jesus wasn’t like that.
He was emotional (John 11:35). He enjoyed a good feast every now and then (John 2:1- 12). He didn’t look like a supermodel (Isaiah 53:2). And He was a Middle-Eastern Jew (that means Jesus was a brown man). He spoke Aramaic. He observed Jewish customs. He frequented the Jewish temple. And He taught Jewish people in Jewish synagogues (Luke 4:15).
And that’s why the people listened to Him. Jesus was one of theirs and spoke in terms they could understand (that comes in handy when you’re overturning an entire religious system).
His parables, in particular, resonated with His audience because the stories reflected their lives and culture. They focused on seeds and agriculture (Matthew 13:24; Mark 4:1-8); the relationship between a master and his servants (Luke 12:35-48); and a shepherd’s intense love for his one missing sheep (Luke 15:1-7).
But Jesus’ message of salvation wasn’t to Jews alone. It extended to the Gentiles and so Jesus geared His message to them, as well. Just check out His interactions with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42); the Syrophoenician woman who requested healing for her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28); and the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-13).
The takeaway: Know your audience. Relate to your audience. And tell them the right stories.
Jesus stayed on brand
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” - John 6:38
Jesus wasn’t confused about what He was on earth to do or what message He was preaching. He didn’t stray from His mission to die for the sins of mankind, reconcile man to God and do the bidding of His heavenly father. And He said that often.
Christ was consistent. Even when faced with the temptation to evade suffering, He remained committed to His message, mission and purpose, and didn’t allow distractions (such as His disciple, Peter, chiding Him for speaking of His own death) deter Him (Matthew 26:39; 16:22-23).
The takeaway: Keep your message streamlined and the same. Don’t lose focus or get bogged down in distractions. Don’t let Satan (or Peter) get in the way.
He used analogies
Explore the Gospels, and you’ll discover that many of Jesus’ parables start out in a similar way: “The kingdom of heaven is like…”
Jesus understood the persuasive power of a good analogy (of course He did — He knows everything). Giving people comparisons revs their mental deduction powers and prompts them to reach conclusions on their own. That’s an effective way to relay your message without hammering your listeners over the head with it, or treating them like they’re stupid (because no one likes that).
Try to incorporate analogies into the stories you tell your audience and the content you produce for them. Don’t go overboard, though. Jesus can get away with it. You probably can’t.
The takeaway: Use analogies. They're good.