Stories are fascinating. They are verbal snapshots of our world. They are powerful auditory images that get stuck in our heads. Stories can inform or distract, reveal or conceal. Stories captivate us.
Stories shape our understanding. Stories have the power to create within our world. The world began when God spoke. The world continues as we speak. The stories we tell and hear influence the lives we live. And this is where we find the first problem: We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose.
Bad stories exist. Bad stories expose the ugly truths in our world and offer no resolution. Racist jokes. Sexist comments. Descriptions of injustice with elitist undertones. We all know these stories. We all know the evil that can come from the reckless wielding these stories. We all know the empty void that these stories leave. These stories create an empty void within us, making us into a hollow shell. Bad stories give us nothing of good substance; they leave us wanting. Our world is full of people who seem to have an unsatisfied hunger and an insatiable thirst for something more.
People crave more. They ache for something bigger and yearn for something better. Now more than ever, people need to be drawn into a coherent story that is bigger than the disjointed episodes of our distracted lives. People want an intelligible story that offers hope. People want an over-arching meta-narrative in which they can find their place and discover who they are meant to be and what they are meant to do. People turn to the church for that story. And this is the second problem: We are not giving them that story. We are just telling them all the other stories are bad.
The Barna Group did a massive research project a few years back and it turned up a surprising result. Christians have been stereotyped as anti- rather than pro-. We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for. We are known for labeling others stories as bad, but not telling an alternative story that is good.
This is why we, as leaders in the church, and we, as Christians, need to rediscover the art of storytelling. Henri Nouwen writes that it is too often that the church is led by an idea or theory, rather than by our great story. Because a story creates space. A story opens doors and makes room for us to search while providing us with boundaries so that we are not wandering aimlessly. The great vocation of the minister is to continuously make connections between the human story and the divine story. It is by making these connections that we can help others discover their identity in something bigger, their belonging to something better, their purpose for something now, and their hope for something more.
So how do we do this? How do we practically use “story” in our ministry? How do we rediscover the art of storytelling amidst committee meetings and pot-lucks and presbytery obligations? How do we help make connections between our stories and God’s story?
I continue to wrestle with these questions and welcome any input on how we can join together to TELL A BETTER STORY …