Ralph Winter is among a rare (and elite) group of film professionals who have produced some of the largest budget movies in Hollywood history. With a résumé that includes the Star Trek, X-Men and Fantastic Four feature-film series, along with I, Robot, Planet of the Apes and many others, his movies have grossed more than $2 billion at the box office. The bottom line: Ralph Winter knows how to tell a story.
For the May-June issue of Ministry Today Magazine, we asked Winter, a longtime Christian who spends as much time mentoring a new generation of Hollywood professionals as he does on a movie set, to sit down with us and share his principles for storytelling that impacts an audience. The gospel is the greatest story ever told, and as leaders we have a responsibility to tell it in a way that resonates with people as they hear God’s story of rescue, redemption and restoration of His creation. Here, Winter unpacks for pastors what makes a good story—and good storyteller—in the 21st century:
The late great American preacher Clarence McCartney recounted ministering at the funeral of a young husband. He stood by the coffin and listened as the young widow poured out her soul in grief. Finally he said to her: “God will give you strength and faith, and out of this will come good.”
“No,” she answered, “good will not come out of this.”
McCartney later reflected that no matter how much God wills it, good would never come to that widow unless she also willed it.
We live in a wired world. We walk together as a disrupted society. In just a few decades, the technical revolution has altered the face of communication—not only how we communicate, but with whom we communicate, the speed by which we communicate and the number of people to whom we communicate.
How we communicate has also changed. Communication is happening less and less verbally. If you can avoid a phone call by sending a text, you’ve saved time, and saving time is better!
In an ever-evolving society, where communication is still radically changing, being a communicator of the gospel can be perplexing and even frustrating. How much technology should we accept as pastors? Is it OK to use social media? Does being current equate to compromising the gospel? These questions can stir up some strong opinions. But here’s what I’ve realized: Just because the message is timeless doesn’t mean the method has to be timeless!
Here are four essential communication lessons I’ve learned as a pastor praying to engage people where they are today with the good news of the gospel:
When ministering in a church, the prophet should have a specific area the Lord has revealed that needs correction. Jesus gave each church a specific place of constructive criticism.
It’s important at this stage to determine if the message should be given to the senior leader publicly or privately. Most words of correction should be judged by leadership before their delivery over the congregation. The interpretation and application of the prophetic word is at the discretion of the senior leader. The senior leader must filter the partial, progressive and conditional part of the prophecy.
Time magazine for May 20, 2013, devotes an entire page to “assessing the creative spark,” a rarity in newsmagazines.
Now, I’m no authority on creativity or anything else, but I have long been fascinated by the subject and attuned to writings dealing with it.
“Creativity is that ineffable match-strike, that flash in the dark that comes to you from, well, it’s hard to say where. You can’t summon it on demand, though inclining your mind to a task does help.” —Time (Jeffrey Kluger, writer)
I know a little about this right-brain activity, being a preacher, a writer, a cartoonist and a storyteller.
Here’s something of what I have learned about creativity: