Can We Be Discipled by A Story?

One of my highest concerns for our congregation right now is how we’re learning to follow Jesus – commonly called discipleship – which I believe is the intentional move that opens the door for Christian spiritual formation.

In other words, following Jesus leads to becoming like Jesus.

When you do a casual search of “The Google” or Amazon, what you’ll find is a wide and surging stream of books and resources on discipleship.





It’s encouraging to see that my passion is not an isolated one - that others are writing and teaching and hopeful about discipleship in this culture.

I’ve been thinking about writing my own, simply because I don’t believe that just because someone else has already said it that I shouldn’t add my voice to the conversation. However, I think we need a different tactic and that leads me to a question.

Can we be discipled – encouraged and guided in following Jesus – by story? Can the characters, plot, setting, conflict, climax and resolution of real life stories be vehicles that lead us into following Jesus more closely? I believe they can. Why?

Because of parables.

Preparing to preach on Luke’s account of the Good Samaritan parable, I wrote the following: “Jesus made up these stories on the spot. He knew His audience and He crafted his characters and plot on purpose.”

If Jesus did this, is the Christian community today gifted enough as storytellers to take someone who is learning to follow Jesus and say “Once upon a time…” instead of “This is what you have to believe…”? Eugene Peterson’s statement that we should “ordain storytellers” the way we ordain pastors and priests is appropriate here. Have we allowed and encouraged storytelling – the way the early church most definitely did – to a great enough degree that we’re able to lead people to follow Jesus through means of story?

Wrestling with this question today, so I’d love your input. What has been more impactful in leading you to follow Jesus:

A statement of doctrinal fact? A story of God’s working in real life? An exegesis of Philippians 2:5-11? An account of someone setting himself aside for God’s sake and the sake of others?

Can we form a story-based culture of discipleship in the church today? What do you think?