don’t stick to the script

I love to play games, but if there’s one thing I dislike most, it’s narrating a game of Mafia. Crafting unrealistic, witty, morbid tales is not my thing.

Actually, crafting tales is not my thing. You can call me boring and uncreative, but I rather like to think I’m a stick-to-the-script kind of person. I read music without a thought, but I struggle to improvise. I’ll prepare a speech for hours on end. Just don’t put me on the spot.

What I’m about to say may surprise you. Remember me? The word-for-word diehard who advocates starting with the text, reading the text, listening to the text, going back to the text . . .

When it comes to stories, I say, do that. And then, get away from the text, and tell the story.

Have you ever thought about how many stories are in the Word of God? A crazy lot.

As for me, I’ve studied stories plenty. But when I tell them out loud, my confidence withers and dies. All of a sudden, pieces are missing. Stuff doesn’t make sense. That story I knew so well feels like a perfect stranger to me.

Not only that, I suddenly realize I’m the world’s worst storyteller.

What do you do when you’re awful at something? Do it over and over again.

A friend and I recently studied the book of Ruth. Perfect. A short, dramatic, love story. We worked through the scenes of the story bit by bit. She would take a scene and tell it from her perspective. Then I would take the next scene. We gave each other pointers and helped each other out. We worked to bring out certain nuances and make the story flow. We added some dramatic effects and 21st-century fun {Ruth lugged home her day’s earnings in her smart car. Lame? Yes. But, really, she couldn’t possibly have carried the six gallons of barley home in her dress.}. We tied it all together in a storyline-of-redemption bow at the end, complete with credits {“He was the father of Jesse, the father of David . . .”}. We practiced a few times, then hired {or rather, begged} an audience of patient sisters to listen and critique us.

Aside from having sheer fun, we were able to express the beauty of an historical story, preserved for ages, in a fresh way to an audience who had heard it a million times prior and died from familiarity.

And we learned more by telling the story than we did in our previous study of it.

I see that skeptical look in your eyes. You’re cautious because you think setting aside the script and telling the story in your own words will take away from the true story as it was originally given. I feel ya. I thought the same thing.

It’s like this.

You can stick to the script, but you’ll learn a lot more if you live inside it. Become the characters for a brief moment, and you now have a glimpse into what they felt, heard, thought, saw, imagined. Maybe. What they maybe felt, heard, thought, saw, imagined.

You can stick to the script, but you’ll learn a lot more if you fill in the gaps. Details are “missing” from the original text {we don’t know how Ruth transported the barley – it doesn’t say . . .}. That’s okay. Speak with confidence about what you know. When you don’t know, have fun guessing {. . . her smart car, of course}. Present a short disclaimer at the end and clarify what was in the text and what was not, urging your listeners to go read the story for themselves. {Now that’s what I’m talking about.}

There’s “no telling” where this sort of thing could lead. Storytelling games for boring car rides, methods for calming hyper children, small group Bible studies revolutionized . . . and if you haven’t heard about the time my friends and I told parables on the city bus, well it’s time you did. Click here. {Of course, those were fictional stories even Jesus told . . . so, a little different, but . . .}

I challenge you to give it a try. Studying a Bible story with a friend? Try to retell it. Bored and looking for something fun and interesting to do? Take turns telling Bible stories. {I mean, why not?}

But don’t just stick to the script. Put your memory skills to work, and tell it like it’s an amazing, true story which has loads of meaning. Because that’s exactly what it is.

[image credit:,]

2 thoughts on “don’t stick to the script

  1. I’ve heard a few other people suggest this over the past few years, and I think you are spot on. We should never add to Scripture, but I think it’s important to not just read it absent mindedly either. When you put yourself in the shoes of the people who were there, when you wonder what it was like, remembering that the Bible is history, it’s all true, it really happened, it can transform old storys into life changing events.

    Liked by 1 person

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