Focus Your Stories on One Simple Truth

How can using the power of life stories change your culture?

To help see others see change, the leader must understand how to unlock the imagination. The very act of imagination is connected to faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When a leader articulates, or provokes, a follower’s imagination, he or she is serving both God and the individual by exercising the muscle of faith.

Solution – Focus your stories on one simple truth

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley

Great stories capture and hold an audience’s attention from start to finish. Why should it be any different when you stand up to speak?

In Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley and Lane Jones offer a unique strategy for communicators seeking to deliver captivating and practical messages. In this highly creative presentation, the authors unpack seven concepts that will empower you to engage and impact your audience in a way that leaves them wanting more.

Whether you speak from the pulpit, podium, or the front of a classroom, you don’t need much more than blank stares and faraway looks to tell you you’re not connecting. Take heart before your audience takes leave! You can convey your message in the powerful, life-changing way it deserves to be told. An insightful, entertaining parable that’s an excellent guide for any speaker, Communicating for a Change takes a simple approach to delivering effectively.


It’s a good idea to keep your vision stories simple. The primary reason for this is that the human capacity to absorb multiple elements isn’t unlimited. When you are communicating a story, keep in mind the limitation of your listeners’ working memory. For the story to be useful, it must be neither too detailed nor too general. The simpler your story is, the more likely that people will comprehend and remember it.

Every time I stand to communicate I want to take one simple truth and lodge it in the heart of the listener. I want them to know that one thing and know what to do with it.

Determine Your Goal – What are you after when you speak or teach? What is the win? Smarter people? Changed people? People with more confidence in God? Your approach to communicating needs to match your goal.

Pick a Point – Point refers to one of three things: an application, an insight, or a principle. With this approach, the point serves as the glue to hold the other parts together.

Create a Map – Follow a five-word outline, each representing a section of the message.

  • ME (Orientation) – a dilemma the communicator has faced or is currently facing.
  • WE (Identification) – common ground with your audience.
  • GOD (Illumination) – transition to the text to discover what God says.
  • YOU (Application) – challenge your audience to act on what they have just heard.
  • WE (Inspiration) – close with several statements about what could happen if everybody embraced that particular truth.

Internalize the Message – you should be able to sit down at a table and communicate your message to an audience of two in a way that is both conversational and authentic.

Engage Your Audience – presentation trumps information when it comes to engaging the audience.

Find Your Voice – to develop an effective style you need to constantly ask yourself two questions:

  • What works?
  • What works for me?

Start All Over – when you get stuck, use these five questions to discover the one thing that the people God has entrusted to our care need to know.

  • What do they need to know? INFORMATION
  • Why do they need to know it? MOTIVATION
  • What do they need to do? APPLICATION
  • Why do they need to do it? INSPIRATION
  • How can I help them remember? REITERATION

Andy Stanley, Communicating for a Change


Think of a recent situation where you were stuck in the preparation of a presentation, sermon, or teaching element. Take this situation to your next leadership team meeting for a collaborative session.

On a chart tablet, list Andy Stanley’s five questions from the “Start All Over” section above. For each of the five questions, solicit answers from your team in a true brainstorming session (no judgments allowed).

After completing each of the five questions, go back through the lists and circle the three most valuable phrases and comments for each question.

As a group, decide on which single word or phrase is your team’s best choice, and underline it.

To complete the exercise and make it useful for both individuals and groups in the future, spend 30 minutes talking through the process of the individual and team choices. Note any applications for future use when you are stuck in your preparation, and apply those applications to help you move forward.

As leaders, we communicate in all we say and do. We may be entertaining at times, we inform much of the time, and occasionally we must be directing in what we say. But in all situations, we can inspire and connect with our audience.

Taken from SUMS Remix 29-2, published December 2016

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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