This is a great post on the power of telling a story. It uses the contrast of two leaders during the Civil War - Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, to illustrate the power of story. According to Mike's post, it was "story" that won the day in the war. Story is powerful. Often times in religious and ministry circles, we can have the tendency to communicate in abstractions, but it is story that communicates most effectively.
Here are Mike Metzger's thoughts on this subject. And as usual, he hits a home run.
When you think of the American Civil War, what tipped the scales toward the North? Did they have better generals? Not if the names McDowell, McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker mean anything to you. Did the North display better tactics? Not if you’re familiar with Bull Run, the Seven Days battle, and Fredericksburg. In fact, the South probably enjoyed better soldiers, field commanders and armaments. What tipped the scales toward the North is the same thing that often tips an enemy toward becoming a friend.
In an essay on the reasons for Confederate defeat in the Civil War, southern historian David M. Potter made a striking assertion: “If the Union and Confederacy had exchanged presidents with one another, the Confederacy might have won its independence.” How’s that? Jefferson Davis had received one of the finest educations of his day attending colleges in Kentucky and Mississippi, including Transylvania University, considered one of the best colleges west of the Appalachians. Davis had graduated from West Point and had received excellent training in rhetoric, logic, literature, and science.
Abraham Lincoln on the other hand was a self-taught man who reconnoitered he had about one year of formal schooling under his belt. He had mastered only a handful of books, including his favorites the King James Bible, Aesop’s Fables, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Shakespeare’s plays. How would swapping these two men have tipped the scales?
For all his schooling, Jefferson Davis “seemed to think in abstractions and to speak in platitudes.” Lincoln’s education had been reading stories rich in figurative language and metaphors. He was a storyteller. Davis postulated propositions while Lincoln painted pictures. Davis was analysis; Lincoln was anecdote. Potter says Lincoln’s stories tipped the scales in favor of the north.
The need for stories was never more evident than after the Battle of Gettysburg, the tipping point of the Civil War. The organizing committee for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg invited the erudite Edward Everett to give the main speech but he told the committee he would be unable to prepare an appropriate oration in such short order and requested postponing the date. The committee agreed and the dedication was reset for November 19. Almost as an afterthought, David Wills, the president of the committee, asked President Abraham Lincoln to make a “few appropriate remarks.” Everett gave a two-hour speech. Lincoln spoke for two minutes but reframed the story of Gettysburg. He used three parallel sets of images that were interwoven. Do you see them? They are past, present, future; continent, nation, battlefield; and birth, death, rebirth. He reframed enemies fighting to the death as a nation being born again.Read the rest at Mike's blog.
Jonathan Swift said it is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he has never reasoned into. Lincoln intuitively knew this. Francis Carpenter, the artist who spent six months at the White House during 1864 painting a picture of Lincoln and his cabinet, noted that the president’s “most powerful thought almost invariably took on the form of a figure of speech, which drove the point home, and clinched it, as few abstract reasoners are able to do.”
Also don't forget to check out this previous post on "Don't write a mission statement, but tell a story"