• Why are stories so effective?

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Modern brain research has confirmed what teachers have long known: stories stick to the brain. As one writer put it: “We think in story. It’s hardwired in our brain.”[1] The question is why? Why do stories stick to the brain? Why is the brain Teflon to almost everything and Velcro to story?

Picture the mind like a fort. Your job as a teacher is to get your information passed the gate. The ego pushes the doors closed, keeping everything out. The ego doesn’t think it needs any information. It certainly doesn’t think it needs to change in any way. The ego diligently guards against any outside information coming in—particularly convicting or life-changing information.

How do you get the ego to relax and quit pushing against the door? Distract him. Tell him a story. Get him thinking about something else. He gets so caught up in the story that he forgets about pushing the door closed. The door swings open and your information gets through.

The classic example of this is the story of Nathan confronting David the king. People got their heads chopped off back in the day for confronting the king. People got their heads lopped off for being in a bad mood in front of the king. How does Nathan confront David the king? He tells a story. The story is so masterfully told that David forgets all about himself (this is often hard to do). He gets all fired up about the injustice in this story.

2 Samuel 12.5 records that David was hot. Look at how the various translations treat this phrase:

  • ·         2 Samuel 12:5 (NIV) David burned with anger against the man.
  • ·         2 Samuel 12:5 (CEV) David was furious.
  • ·         2 Samuel 12:5 (ESV) Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man.
  • ·         2 Samuel 12:5 (HCSB) David was infuriated.
  • ·         2 Samuel 12:5 (MSG) David exploded in anger.
  • ·         2 Samuel 12:5 (NKJV) So David’s anger was greatly aroused.

David is so caught up in his own anger that he didn’t realize that Nathan was talking about him. The light came on when Nathan said four words: “You are the man.”

Jesus often used this approach with the Pharisees. I don’t think they saw themselves as the elder brother until the very end of the story.

Josh Hunt

[1] Cron, Lisa (2012-07-10). Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence (Kindle Location 179). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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Josh Hunt is the world’s #1 Bible Study Lesson writer. He has written more Bible Study lessons than any human, living or dead. He has written 4 lessons a week for 20 years and counting. His lessons are not like other lessons. They consist of 20 ready-to-use questions that spark discussion, create controversy and get groups talking.
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