“Resonate”: Stories Transform Lives

After cleaning up this site from being hacked (and ramping up security), I’m ready to continue my series on Nancy Duarte's book, Resonate (see Communicate for Change, What I Like About the Book, and The Presentation Form).

Telling stories is a vital component of Duarte’s book. Duarte writes …

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form. People love stories because life is full of adventure and we’re hardwired to learn lessons from observing change in others. Life is messy, so we empathize with characters who have real-life challenges similar to the ones we face. (16)

Stories have heros. But Duarte is clear in stating that communicators “are not the hero” (18). She states, “You are not the hero who will save your audience; the audience is the hero” (20).

Duarte asserts that the communicator is the mentor. “You’re simply the voice helping them get unstuck in their journey” (20). To be a good mentor, “place the audience at the center of the action, and make them feel that the presentation is addressing them personally” (20).

As mentor, your role is to give the hero guidance, confidence, insight, training, or magical gifts so he can overcome his initial fears and enter the new journey with you. (20)

Duarte also discusses the pattern of stories. She writes, “The most simplistic way to describe the structure of a story is situation, complication, and resolution” (29).

This reminds me of what Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, refers to as orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. Brueggemann notes that this process is seen throughout the Hebrew Bible, including the Psalms (some of which he calls “psalms of disorientation”).

Well, there’s so much more about story in the book. I enjoyed learning about stories from the world of movies. We’ve blogged about a number of movies in the past, as well as listing Movies for Leaders, and a discussion of Success vs. Significance in the Movies. After reading Resonate, I’ve been paying greater attention to the hero’s situation, the inciting incident (complication), and the resolution and transformation throughout the movie.

In recent years, I’ve particularly come to value the importance of story in the context of leadership. In fact, when I was working on a doctor of ministry degree at Asbury, one of my first ideas for a dissertation topic was related to storytelling in the context of leadership communication.

It’s easy to see the importance of storytelling in the context of preaching. The Bible is full of great stories. And the Bible as a whole, is a great story. In recent years, I’ve thought of sermon preparation in terms of movie making.

In my own preaching over the last five years of one-point preaching, I’ve tended to focus on actual stories in the Bible. My challenge is in preaching on biblical texts that aren’t specifically stories. Resonate will help me find a way to tell a story even with texts where story is not as evident. The sermon itself needs to be a story. Stanley and Jones, in Communicating for a Change, write, “Until you can stand up and tell a story, you’re not ready to preach” (53).

Well, I think the ability to “stand up and tell a story” is an important skill to develop because, I agree, stories transform lives!

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