I had always felt life first as a story -- and if there is a story there is a story teller." -- G.K. Chesteron
People love stories. It's the language of every human soul. People love to connect with a story that takes them somewhere -- that transcends their current reality and captures their imagination. Why do we love movies? For a few hours we are captivated by a story that contains a combination of intrigue, adventure, despair, hope, pain, restoration and/or betrayal. It takes us somewhere -- mainly somewhere else.
At the root of every person's beliefs, world views, opinions and theories there is a story; a "metanarrative" or "grand narrative" that dictates our decisions. This story gives our life context and prompts our actions. It helps us make sense of life by providing an interpretation of the world from its beginning to its end. Call it religion, reason, self or a myriad of other things, everyone believes in a story and that story is somehow shaping your life.
Jesus was a storyteller. He communicated in parables, not to create confusion but in order to invite people into a story. A story of creation, brokenness, and redemption. A story that transcends any one person and our own personal achievements and speaks to something greater, and more importantly something eternal.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, he calls not only to be a part of God's bigger story of redemption but to paint a picture for others about just how incredible this story can be. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a life-transforming adventure of love, relationship, second chances and purpose. It's a movement, a mission that compels us to live a life so much greater than ourselves.
What sort of story are you writing? Is your story worth following?
Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, tells a story of a father he met who had attended one of his conferences. The father shared with Don some concerns about his daughter. She had recently become close friends with some disreputable people, had been heavily influenced by the gothic scene and was dating a guy that was bad news. The father didn't know what to do.
The father resorted to what many parents in that situation would do. He told his daughter that she needed to find better friends, she needed to change her appearance, and he forced her to attend the church her family had attended their entire lives. A small, fairly traditional congregation that was no longer growing and no longer relevant to a younger generation.
After hearing the father's situation, Don looked at the father and simply said, "It seems like your daughter is choosing a better story. The story you've provided for her is full of guilt and shame. In the story she has chosen she is desired and wanted. Maybe it's time to write a better story for her." The father left somewhat puzzled but also with a renewed desire to do better.
In the weeks that followed the father contacted a missions organization and found out about a small town in Mexico that was in desperate need of a new orphanage. He went home, gathered the family around the table, and told them that he wanted to raise $20,000 to build an orphanage in Mexico. He didn't know how it would all happen but he asked the family to get involved.
In the weeks that followed his 14-year-old son became enamored with planning a family mission trip to Mexico to scout out a site for the new orphanage. His daughter, the same one causing him all the worry, now begin using Facebook and other social media outlets to raise money and get the word out about the orphanage.
His family became engrossed in the project. They looked for ways to raise funds and dedicated much of their time to the project. His daughter broke up with her loser boyfriend and the new missions endeavor opened up a completely new relational dynamic between him and his family. A more compelling story had been written.
Here's the problem, the gospel is an incredible adventure of something that transcends us, gives our life meaning and awakens our soul. Too many Christians today have traded this grand adventure for something far less. Our churches have stopped telling and living a story that incites passion and fuels movement, and instead, have been distracted with peripheral issues. If the gospel is the greatest story ever told, and I've given my life to believing that it is, then the way you tell the story matters!
Can I share with you just a few ways I believe we can begin making the story of the gospel more compelling?
First of all, we must authentically live out the gospel message in all its fullness. If we attempt to tell a story we haven't fully embraced, not only does our message seem empty, we actually put a barrier between that person and the gospel message. What you say and what you do matters.
Secondly, we must remain focused on the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's incredibly easy to become sidetracked with issues that aren't at the heart of the story. Many churches and Christians are guilty of putting prominence on issues that may be important, but regardless, are secondary to the gospel message. If we are to keep the "main things the main things" then we must fight to protect the gospel story.
Lastly, it's imperative to understand that the gospel demands that we are a people on a mission. A mission of love, grace, service and forgiveness that invites others to join us on this journey of brokenness and redemption only found through Christ. Being on a mission means that we embrace the adventure that is found in Christ. Our objective as people of the gospel is not to accumulate or to find the most comfortable route. Instead, our lives should be such a compelling story of the transformative power of the gospel that others see and are drawn to something greater.
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