Can You Tell a Good Story in Three Minutes?

what's your storyThere is hardly anyone who doesn’t like to hear a good story. In fact it may have something to do with how we were created. It should not surprise us that God chose a series of smaller stories to tell a single big story. The big story is the one that resolves in the revealing of his Son, Jesus and of the coming of the kingdom Jesus embodied and proclaimed.  The Bible tells that story through the experiences of series of individuals, families, tribes and nations spanning some thousands of years. But it is a story for every individual, family tribe and nation – of every generation.

People who have made a decision to believe and follow Jesus also have their own stories and experiences. These stories happen because they respond to His story. They experience God’s grace for themselves in a myriad of ways. All of these stories reflect contemporary experience of the God who came to earth as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said that these stories would become tools in the spread of the message of Jesus: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [Acts 1:8] The ‘witnesses’ Jesus anticipated were going to be the people who did things by Holy Spirit power, including telling stories.


Most of us have stories of things God has done. At the beginning and along the way we have responded to his Word.  As a result God did things. We usually call these testimonies.  The ordinary word is “stories.”  Its a simpler word and doesn’t need to be translated.


The challenge about telling a story that connects people to Jesus doesn’t happen automatically. Neither is it a case of acquiring some form of professionalism or human excellence.  Leave that to TED and Disney. We are talking about improving our skills so that the message it carries is easy to receive. The people listening to us get to see how good God is. That’s what Jesus referred to when he said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” [1] In this way the Spirit of God will be able to speak to the heart of a person. Stories are like any other art form. They don’t just carry facts; they speak a message from one person’s heart to another person’s heart. I doubt that here is not a single story in the gospels relating to Jesus that doesn’t carry a message from the heart of God to the heart of the people he loves who are separated from him.

So the challenge for many of us is to tell those stories well, and free of tribal Christian jargon.  It is also a challenge for us to tell them in a succinct manner.  If stories are to be the tools that carry God’s message to someone’s heart there is no justification for telling them in a tardy way. How you relate the facts that make up your story will either enhance the message or hinder it. So we should take the trouble to make sure we tell it in a way that make it as easy as possible for another person to understand. Telling the story is not about us, it’s about them. A few simple tools and some practice will enable us to achieve this worthy goal.

Consider these observations from the gospels. When Jesus told the parable of the sower it took less than a minute and even when he later explained what it meant it only took less than another minute. The story of the Prodigal Son takes three minutes. You will soon realize from your own reading that the majority of the stories are the same. There may be some wisdom about this that we can easily miss. In the first place, a short story told well is easy to remember. If it carries a message then the message will also be easy to retain because the story is short and simple. In the oral language culture of Jesus’ day, those stories were remembered and told and retold and the told again. Their messages could be received and implemented and confirmed and then passed on to others. All of this is because the stories were simple and well told.


There is now a rush happening around the world. It is mostly due to the fact that the marketers have discovered the power of the story and suddenly everyone is learning how to tell stories better. Our heritage simply rests on our Creator and the Son who came to reveal him.

Many stories we read as novels are from forty thousand to eighty thousand words. That takes between three and a half to seven hours to read for the average person. But no one sits and listens to someone telling a forty thousand-word story. As we have indicated previously, Jesus told stories and gave teachings that were only a few minutes, many less than a minute.

So we want to learn to tell a story in three minutes. If we can learn to tell story well, and do it in three minutes it will become much more useful as a tool for kingdom ministry.


[1] Matthew 5

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About Brian

Passionate follower of Jesus. Member of a family that keeps on growing because I keep on meeting up with more great people from every nation and background who I belong to because of Jesus. Husband of an amazing woman, father of four forgiving kids and eight almost perfect grandkids. And loving it.