Storytelling is one the oldest forms of communication there is. From ancient oral histories that inform cultural identities to the narratives of the Bible that form the backbone to our Christian faith, stories are a powerful conduit for meaning and belief.
The impact of a story on our lives though goes only so far as our ability to grasp it.
Pastor Robert Fergusson has been a preacher and teacher for over 30 years – most notably as the teaching pastor at Hillsong’s Baulkham Hills campus – and in his first book, Are You Getting This?, he dives into the art of telling a good story and how to use your own life story to effectively unveil biblical truths.
“I love the idea that God speaks through people, and He speaks through their stories,” pastor Robert told Hope 1032.
“The Bible is just a catalogue of remarkable stories of flawed, and different and heroic individuals, and every single one can speak to you.”
With a love of history and the significance of stories in shaping how we see the world, pastor Robert thinks Jesus set the example for us in how effective stories can be to explain an idea.
“When Jesus came to Earth, He chose storytelling as His main form of communication,” he said,
“So I think sooner or later we [all] are going to have to be storytellers…Stories are one of the most powerful ways of disseminating truth, and passing on something profound to another generation.”
Pastor Robert’s own story began in rural England. He grew up on a farm with his brother and parents, before heading off to boarding school when he was eight years old, after his father had passed away. Attending the same school his father had, Robert in some ways carried on his legacy there, which he said was more of a privilege than a burden.
“I’ve always loved history so the idea of being part of the generations is very important to me. I was brought up in a village with about 250 people… that was mentioned in the Domesday Book (which was written in 1086). The village has been there for a thousand years, and a thousand years before that, and I’ve always had this idea that we are just part of a long journey of the generations,” pastor Robert said.
“So the idea of receiving a story from a previous generation and passing it on to the next has always been part of my life… and I love that idea of leaving a legacy so it didn’t bother me.”
It was years later when pastor Robert was a science teacher that he felt he was called to preach, and use his teaching gift in a different way.
“I was in a classroom teaching biology – and this is a strange thing to say for many [readers] – but I believe God spoke to me as clearly as I’m speaking to you,” he said.
“He said, ‘What are you doing?’ and I responded, ‘I’m telling them about a leaf’… and He said, ‘You should be telling them about me’… I just knew from that moment [what my calling was]. It was so definite that I have never for once doubted it.”
With the opportunities pastor Robert has had to preach about God he teaches them about something he calls, “the impossibility of the Christian life” – a reflection on God’s myriad of biblical instructions asking us to love and neighbour and so on, and our absolutely inability to perfect them.
“Everything we do requires [Jesus’] grace and strength,” he said.
“Jesus said in John 15, ‘apart form me you can do nothing’. And that is a wonderful, releasing thing; I can’t speak, I can’t be a good husband, I can’t have great devotions, I can’t bring up my children well – it’s impossible. But that’s where you draw on the grace of God.”
Surprisingly, pastor Robert requires more strength for overcoming his fear of public speaking.
“I’ve always been terrified of public speaking,” he said.
“[My nervousness] that still exists… is my thorn in the flesh: it enables me to pray more, to draw strength from God more, to access grace more – so I’ve given up worrying about being slightly nervous.”
Robert Fergusson’s book Are You Getting This? is available now.
Listen to his full conversation with Laura Bennett in the player above.