I told the Passion story on Friday, using the text of John 18-20. I did it Biblical Storyteller style, from memory and down on the sanctuary floor. It’s the longest story I’ve ever done, so I broke it into three parts. It worked.
Every time I do this I remember anew why memorizing Biblical stories to tell in this style is so effective, particularly for the storyteller. Verbalizing a text is such a fundamentally different way of processing and learning it than analyzing a printed text. I spend about as much time preparing to tell a story as I do exegeting a passage to preach, and with equally rich rewards. When you say the words of a story out loud 20-plus times you notice things that you miss by just reading it.
For example, in John’s Passion story both Judas and Peter are noted by the author to be “standing with” people, Judas with those who are arresting Jesus and Peter with the crowd in the High Priest’s courtyard during Jesus’ trial. I never noticed before the impact of the statements that they were “standing with” those two groups of people (instead, of course, of “standing with” Jesus). I doubt that would have caught my attention if I had not been saying “Standing with” over and over and over again.
If you haven’t tried this, do. It’s easy to start. I use this handy narrative analysis guide to prepare most of the time.
Or email me. Before I tried this for the first time I reached out to a colleague who does it all the time, and the input and advice she gave me was invaluable, not just for doing it effectively but for maintaining the nerve to go through with it at all. I’m eager to pay that forward.