“Where do we end and where does the story begin? With the most intense, involving stories, it’s hard to tell.” – Jeremy Adam Smith
What is the Theology?
We are surrounded by stories that compete for our attention. There’s the hero’s story – I am the one who swoops in and saves the day. There’s the myth of redemptive violence – by hurting this person, it will make the situation right. There’s the story of the consumer – by consuming this product I will be happy and accepted by others. These are just some of the ubiquitous stories in culture that books, movies, television, commercials, and institutions tell. Christians, however, have loyalties to a different story. Instead of being the hero, we recognize that Jesus is the one who saves. Instead of using redemptive violence, we are baptized into the redemptive death of Jesus. Instead of identifying ourselves by what we consume, we are consumed by the God who made us in the image of God. We can allow the story of love, mercy, and abundance shape us, instead of scarcity, violence, and selfishness. The good news is, the story of God is pretty compelling. As pastors, we can proclaim this incredible story and trust that the Spirit of God will weave our own lives into that story.
What to Consider
- In your context, what stories compete for your attention? What stories compete for your community’s attention?
- What passages in the Bible have grabbed your attention? For those that are of a different genre than narrative, what is the story within which they were written?
- In your sermons, what parts do your listeners remember? What receives the most feedback? What do you believe is the most transformative?
- How do the stories of your life give you purpose? Is there one or two stories that might encapsulate the trajectory of your life?
- Where is Jesus in your story? In your congregation’s story?
How to go Deeper
- Make storytelling a regular part of your corporate worship. This could be a time open to everybody, special guest storytellers, or even stories told over good food. Invite participants to pay attention to the work of the Spirit as they hear and tell stories.
- Do a series on Christian doctrines that focuses on the compelling stories within which different doctrines emerged.
- Hold a summer movie series. You might include compelling movies with strong Christian themes and movies that tell a different, competing story. Afterward, discuss how God was portrayed, where the Spirit might be working in this movie, and what parts might need to be resisted. If you need ideas, take a look at Reel Spirituality by theology of film scholar Robert Johnston.
- In your integration of science into your sermons, tell scientific theories through stories instead of only expounding upon the ideas. You might try sharing about the hunt for Dark Matter, telling the real story of Galileo and the church, or retelling the creation narrative from the standpoint of evolutionary theory.
The Storytelling Animal – Greater Good Science Center
How Stories Change the Brain – Greater Good Science Center
Storytelling in the Bible – Society of Biblical Literature
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