I spent the weekend hanging out at Breakforth Canada. The conference started for me on Friday with a writers’ workshop led by Steven James. He began his workshop by picking up a stack of handouts and tossing them into the air above our heads. We laughed and ducked and tried to catch a handout – sixteen stapled pages weigh quite a lot when hitting you on the head.
He told stories and we played games. He made us laugh. We kept up a good American-Canadian camaraderie as he taught us about writing. We got to know the other writers there. At the end of the day, we walked out with a few pages of scribbled notes and brains brimming with ideas and the urge to write some stories.
The conference continued on Saturday as my fiance and I attended various marriage and young adult sessions. On Sunday we had two more sessions and then the last main assembly. Josh McDowell spoke in one session about a new book he’s published. It’s a novel written for Muslims, answering questions they’re asking about Christianity. He’s reaching them by telling a story rather than by preaching. The idea intrigued me – the power of a story to reach out to people who otherwise would not listen to what he had to say.
As Christians, we are called to be storytellers, to tell the greatest story of all… that of Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross. Yet so often we throw this story at our audience as Steven threw his handouts at us. The story hits them on the head and they are left ducking, dodging, trying to avoid it. No wonder they aren’t interested in listening to us! Jesus Himself came telling stories, as Steven pointed out to us again and again. When He wanted to teach His audience something, He put it into a story – stories so packed with messages that pastors are still preaching on them two thousand years later, stories every child who’s been through Sunday School still remembers.
Throughout the weekend, conference presenters used stories to teach us. Steven told stories to illustrate the writing tips he was giving us. Another presenter told stories to demonstrate what he was telling us about marriage. McDowell told stories to convey his message about the importance of relationships. When I think back on the conference, the first thing I remember is the stories I heard. And because of that, I also remember what the stories were meant to teach.