It spreads fast.
Recently I trimmed some trees and brush in my back yard and burned the debris. I don’t have a good way to haul tree limbs off or a good place to burn them, so I borrowed my neighbor’s fire pit. You know, the kind made to sit on a patio for entertaining. The kind that is small and not very deep. The kind that is meant to burn neatly trimmed blocks of wood you buy from the convenient store. Not the kind meant for burning unwieldy tree limbs and bush trimmings.
That didn’t stop me. If I cut the limbs small enough I could burn them in the pit with no problems. In fact, I was so confident that I didn’t even bother dragging the garden hose over in case of an emergency.
As I began to burn away the stick heap, my three children thought it would be fun to get in on the action. What boy doesn’t love playing with fire? They took joy in hurling random sticks from the pile into the raging inferno.
I turned my back for what felt like five seconds to trim another limb and over the sound of the saw I heard my 9-year-old yelling, ?Daddy, daddy…the fire is spreading.? You can probably figure out where this is headed: I had started my own prairie fire.
I grabbed the hose and extinguished the flames before the incident turned to tragedy. It was a tragedy for my lawn, maybe, but no people were harmed in the making of this example.
What struck me is how rapidly a smoldering ember could start a chain reaction. Fire spreads fast.[quote]Messages have the potential to spread like fire.[/quote]
Messages have the potential to spread like fire as well. The key for us as communicators is learning what kinds of messages have those wildfire characteristics. What causes it to spread?
One essential ingredient for messages that catch fire is story.
A message connected to an engaging, life changing, revolutionary story has the ability to infect the mind and spread contagiously. We see in Acts 2 how people in the first century, upon hearing and experiencing the story of Jesus, committed their lives to spreading the message.[quote]People respond to stories.[/quote]
People respond to stories. When we hear a story we are transported to another place. We find a kindred existence that we can relate to. We adopt the situation as our own and labor alongside the characters. Their struggle becomes our struggle. Their mission becomes our mission. And ultimately, their message becomes our message.
A fire needs three things to exist: a spark, oxygen, and fuel. A story is no different.
The spark of a story is what makes it compelling. It is the aspect that makes it stand out from all the other stories competing for people?s attention. If it doesn’t capture attention, it doesn’t matter what the message is, because the chemical reaction in our brain that makes us want to spread the message never occurs.[quote]Churches are at an advantage because we have the most interesting story ever told.[/quote]
Churches are at an advantage because we have the most interesting story ever told. When we find creative ways to pique people’s interest in the story of the Bible, people will have a burning desire to share it with others.
The oxygen for our story is the supernatural struggle of good versus evil. Think about all of the movies you’ve seen that have a supernatural element, and how good you feel when the good guy wins and the bad guy falls.
Church communicators have the ultimate story of Good versus Evil at our disposal. There is a supernatural plot at play, and when we ignite it correctly, we have a utility that can help our message spread ablaze.
The fuel in a story is its usefulness. When we combine a compelling, supernatural story with practical application, the message will become like a raging inferno.
As quickly as the fire spread across my lawn, I was able to extinguish it with just a small amount of water. Similarly, we often quench our message from spreading because we neglect to tie it to supernatural life change in the context of good storytelling. Next time you have a message that you’d like to catch fire, make sure you have a spark, some oxygen, and some fuel. Oh, and if you ever need to burn tree limbs in your yard, get yourself a 50 gallon drum. Fire spreads fast.