Making a connection, telling a story

What magic trick could you do that a blind person would enjoy? Watch this Ted talk if you want to know the answer. It’s worth it.

He told a story to talk about making connections with people.

“Magic is about making a connection, life is about making a connection”.

And I would add preaching is about making a connection. This guy talks about making a connection with people, sharing a perspective, in order to enjoy together the wonder of a magic trick. He says to make the connection you need to help people identify with you, feel that you understand them, and so share a conceptual space in which together you can enjoy the trick (for example, one way is to pretend, as a magician, that you are surprised by what is going on too. Another is to pre-empt their scepticism about your props and let them check them out for themselves). But of course it’s an illusion. The magician is not seeing the magic in the same way as the audience. In preaching however we are genuinely experiencing awe and wonder together as we see Jesus.

Good magicians also tell a story with their magic. They do not just come on and do tricks. They take people on a journey. I was intrigued as to the way this chap told a story to make his point about how to do a trick that a blind person could enjoy. In telling it he talked about what he thought, and felt and the dilemma that he had etc. All the normal marks of a good story. Plus a great twist at the end.

He talks about the difference between visual perspective and emotional perspective. Not how we or someone else looks but how they feel about the interaction. How do you know what someone is feeling? Ask. And then listen to understand. Don’t be thinking about what you are going to say next and don’t jump in with your thing before they have finished. All good advice.

Then I watched another Ted talk on telling stories by the guy who wrote the screen plays for Toy-story, Finding Nemo and Wall-e, a bugs life :

“the greatest story commandment is ‘make me care’”

The story should start with a kind of promise that it will be worth hearing to the end. The first few moments of a preach are so important too. It’s there that you need to persuade people to listen to you. That is will be worth their time and, more importantly their attention (only a few will actually get up and leave if its dull!).

“Don’t give the audience 4, give them 2+2”. Draw them in to make the deductions.

You can’t just present information. People must feel compelled to process it. To work with it. To do something with it. In preaching the truth should get us thinking “if that then this and this…” or “but if that then what about this…”.

Characters need a spine. Something that drives them. Woody’s was to do what was best for his child. Wall-e was to find the beauty.

“If things go static, stories die…because life is changing all the time”

“drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty” William Archer

He said something interesting about Woody. They were going to make him more selfish at first, I think, but in the end decided to make him friendly except with one condition. That he was top toy. That’s a very human trait. We can be nice and good as long as certain conditions are met. The key moment for Woody is not necessarily when he goes from mean to self sacrificial, but when he lays his condition down. When he says in effect “I lay down being and striving for and protecting my position as top toy”. He is sacrificing the thing he holds most dear.

“Woody’s resolve to maintain his status as “Andy’s Favorite Toy” is unraveled throughout the course of the story, until by the end he concedes that status to Buzz.  At the moment of greatest crisis (right before the rocket explodes), Woody lets someone else be in charge for once, allowing himself to be literally taken under Buzz’s wings.  From the experience of his separation from Andy, Woody comes to believe his own words, “It doesn’t matter how much we’re played with—what matters is that we’re here for Andy when he needs us.”  In the final scene we see Woody loosened up and dancing, satisfied to be part of the group rather than its leader; he’s more comfortable with himself, more chummy to Buzz, and more accessible to Bo Peep’s advances.”

There is so much of the gospel in that character arc. God gave up his most precious son to be here for us in our need. We in turn, give up our most precious needs and enjoy living life for God. We are only truly free when we submit our lives to him.

“A strong theme is always running through a well told story”

“use what you know, draw from it…express values you personally feel deep down to your core”

“the magic ingredient, the secret source [of story telling] is can you invoke wonder.  Wonder is honest ,it is completely innocent, it cant be artificially invoked. For me there is no greater gift than another human being giving you that feeling. To hold them still for just a brief moment in their day. And have them surrender to wonder. When its tapped the affirmation of being alive reaches you to almost a cellular level…. The best stories infuse wonder”

Preaching should invoke wonder at the God who, in Jesus, gave himself up for us. We have the most wonderful story to tell.

And now fireworks night is over, here is this Christmas’s the John Lewis advert:

It invokes wonder, magnified through the eye of a child. It moves emotions. It makes us care what happens in the end. And as well as getting us to buy more things, possibly from John Lewis, it raises money for Age UK.

The strap line and the story is ultimately “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”. That is of course the heart of the Christmas message. God so loved the world that he gave his only son. So that we would not be permanently excluded from his presence but accepted and brought near.

And now for something completely different, one final TED talk – you can draw!


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