What Can the Church Learn from America’s Got Talent?

AGTMy family and I love America’s Got Talent. Honestly, there is not a lot of television that is compelling and appropriate for two adults, and eleven-year-old and a six-year-old. However, AGT can hold everyone’s attention for most of ninety minutes.

There is plenty to pick on about the show, but it has been hugely successful. Most of the allure comes from the uniquely gifted men, women, and children who appear on the show. We get to watch singers, dancers, magicians, acrobats, and some acts that are hard to describe. All that talent on display makes for good television. But the talent isn’t what makes the show great. You know what makes the show great? Stories.

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The producers pick out contestants with fascinating stories. They are often stories of overcoming struggles and heartbreak. In the last episode we watched as a family, we got to see an amazing young magician, named Henry Richardson, perform. His talent was impressive. But what made him compelling is that he had developed his love of magic at an early age with his father. When the boy lost his father, he gave up magic. Later, he decided that his father could live on through his love of magic and he eventually decided to audition.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 2.00.01 PMOn an earlier episode, they shared the story of a singer, Mandy Harvey, who lost her hearing. Through endless hard work and perseverance, she learned to sing again and won “yes” votes from all the judges. Stories like this are featured on the show through video vignettes and sometimes through interactions with the judges.

I love watching the show but if often makes me think of that fact that the church has forgotten how to tell stories. As Christians, we are a people of stories. The Bible, which we can now carry around in paperback or on our iPhones wasn’t always a written document. The stories of God’s transformative work began as oral traditions that were passed down from generation to generation. And new stories of God’s grace are written every day. If a church can’t tell a story of someone’s life being transformed through the love of Jesus, it needs to ask itself it is still a church.

It is easier than ever to share stories of transformation. In our present, digital world, we have access to a greater audience than ever. Our audience may not be immediately interested in joining a church or becoming a Christian. But I believe that people are hard-wired to be interested in compelling stories. Churches should be sharing these stories of life transformation in any way they can.

A while back, I wrote a four-part series on the power of storytelling a church’s website. (See “Stories – Your Website’s Secret Sauce,” “Stories – Finding the Secret Sauce,” “Stories – Sharing the Secret Sauce in Text,” and “Stories – Sharing the Secret Sauce with Video.”)

The website is a great place to start, but churches can expand the reach to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and more. There are plenty of platforms to share stories. There are lots of stories to share. There are many ready to listen.


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