I've been listening to Leonard Sweet's newest book So Beautiful. (You can download it free here.)
I say I've been listening, because that's pretty much a new experience for me. I don't "listen to books," I read books. And when I read books, I take notes. Or highlight. Or underline. And this proves that I am a product of my time. I'm literate - I read and remember through writing.
And I'm listening to So Beautiful little-by-little on my iPod docked to the radio in my bathroom while I shave. (Okay probably TMI! Sorry...) But as I listen to some unknown person read Len Sweet, I keep wanting to stop everything, get a piece of paper and write things down.
(Personally, this might be the most important book Len's done since Soulsunami and Soul Salsa. (Although, he does crank em out...) And he dedicates this book to Alan Hirsch citing him as a big influence on his thinking. So there you go. And he's saying things I've been saying for a long time, like Church is missional, relational and incarnational. I said that myself. Must be listening to the same Spirit. (smile))
In missions we teach about "orality," and speak about "oral learners." They are those who learn best through hearing not by reading. They learn through stories, rather than through literacy. Some cultures are "pre-literate" in that they have no written language and their traditions, values and virtues are passed on through story-telling, dance and drama.
And orality is also a characteristic of post-literate societies like the pomo (an I use that word with great caution, but I still use it) world we find ourselves in.
Stories - good stories - also engage our emotions as much as our minds. Good stories develop our insights and moral understanding. I've often said Jesus was not so much of a great preacher as he was a great story-teller. Just think about the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son. Great stories!
Mostly in preaching we uses stories as illustrations, but Jesus and great story-tellers tell stories not just to illustrate, but as stand-alone teachings. They don't need explanations, they allow the hearers to understand the story and apply it themselves. Think of when you heard an Aesop fable or a Joel Chandler Harris Uncle Remus story. Made you think. Made you remember. Taught you something.
So for me, I'm listening to Leonard Sweet. I'm hoping he's as good a story-teller as he is a writer. I'm listening...