Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
When the letter arrived last week, I knew from merely a quick glance at the envelope that the writer was very young; both the handwriting and the multi-colored words were clear indications of that fact.
And when a young person writes to me, my habit is to lay everything else aside at once and read the letter.
“Dear Dr. Bo Wagner,” she began in clear pink lettering, “I love your Night Heroes books.” I smiled at that and at the artwork all over the page, including the flowering vine growing from the bottom and looping across the top.
“I have read every single one of them, 1-10.” she continued. “I love them so much that I’ve read them 3 or 4 times. I especially like Runaway, when Kyle wants to beat up the slave owner Master Feenee. Your books are so amazing. Sincerely, Esther.” And then, at the bottom of the page was another neat little bit of artwork, a girl holding an open book and saying, “I love books.”
To say that the letter made my day would be an understatement of Godzillian proportions, so much so that I sent the young lady an autographed copy of the newest Night Heroes book, Desert Heat.
I write for the same reason that good parents read good books to their children; there is a power in storytelling that is pretty well unmatched by anything else in the world. This precious girl has been to Germany of World War II and learned both how bad it was for the Jews and what a big difference a few people dedicated to serving God can make, even when they are just kids. She has been to the Battle of Chickamauga and learned how easy it is for family to be set against family when they lose focus on the things that matter most. She has seen the elusive Moth Man of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and learned to be fearless in the face of evil. She has seen the Indian wars in Rogersville, Tennessee, learned about the piracy years off the coast of North Carolina, braved the cold winds and snow as she saw an innocent baby saved from the winter wolf, and chased Pancho Villa into the heart of Mexico. And, yes, she has learned about the slavery years and how precious freedom is.
When I was a kid, I was following along with the adventures of Bill, Big Jim, and the other kids from the Sugar Creek Gang. I learned how, when boys stick together, even a full-grown bad guy is no match for them. I can also still see the black widow in the old log and the convulsions of the man who tried to hide there and got bitten. I spent hours on the lake fishing with them, swimming in the branch with them, and going to church with them. Those boys became my friends; I felt like I knew them personally. Bill’s parents became like godparents to me, as well.
Later on, I came across the Chronicles of Narnia. I found myself immersed in every adventure along with the Pevensie kids and looking for Aslan at every turn. I learned about honor and faithfulness, and I was warned that just starting right in something is not enough; one needs to stay the course and finish right as well. Years later, when I had three kids of my own, I read both the Sugar Creek Gang series and the Chronicles of Narnia to them, with unique voices for each character to help make it come alive to them. I knew that if those stories did something for me, they could do the same for them. And then, as I started writing the Night Heroes, I based my three young heroes on my own kids. I figured that seeing themselves in a story would make them want to rise to the level of their characters.
Jesus did miracles, yes. But have you ever noticed why people wanted to be around him on most days? Four separate times in the book of Luke, we are told that the people wanted to hear him. You see, Jesus was, among other things, a masterful storyteller. In fact, Matthew 13:34 says, “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable [a story] spake he not unto them.” By my count, of the 40,031 words that Christ spoke in the gospels, 13,882 of them were either parables, illustrations, or explanations of a parable or illustration. That is 35 percent!
The world is a worse influence on children than at any time in our history, mostly because we now have the technology for the world to pump filth into them 24/7 through electronic devices that they seem almost surgically attached to. But parents need not lose hope and give up; the power of a good story has not lessened. In fact, against the backdrop of the current darkness, a good story is more powerful than ever.
So, moms and dads and grandparents, may I make a suggestion? Yes, you should absolutely read the Bible to the children. But don’t stop there. Find good stories and series, gather everyone together at night or in the early morning, and say, “Devices down, everyone; we are about to go on an adventure.” And then pour your heart into telling the story as you read it. Do voices, be expressive, make it come alive. Take your children places they may never go and to times already long past to meet people who will change their lives. Help them to find heroes of virtue and character before the world helps them to make heroes of narcissistic influencers who become famous simply for being outrageous rather than for doing anything that truly matters.
There is still nothing as powerful as a good story.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and his books are available by clicking the “Store” link above.
Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner, lovely artwork by Esther Pope!