Jeff Goins On The In-Between

My friend Jeff Goins is a prolific and popular writer who just released his second book, The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing. You should absolutely grab the book between now and August 10 so that you can also get all of these great bonuses Jeff has put together.

Jeff was nice enough to spend a few minutes with me yesterday talking about the book, his writing process, and what he has been reading lately. Take a look:

The In-Between is available now on Amazon and wherever else good books are sold.

Telling Stories On Sunday

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image credit: Stephen Proctor

Last week I taught a breakout session at Echo titled, “Telling Stories On Sunday,” and I thought I’d share a few thoughts from that session here. They’ll be a little rough and lacking in context, but when has that ever stopped my before? Here we go:

  • “Where are you taking me?” — this is a question from the movie Finding Forrester (one of my favorites), and I believe it’s a question that every human heart is asking. Storytelling is about answering this question.
  • It feels as though the American Church has, at least in part, forgotten our calling to be storytellers. As a result, we offer a lot lights, a lot of noise, a lot of principles and propositions. We’re heavy on fear, but what if we were heavy on hope?
  • We are not called to dispense good advice. We are storytellers, witnesses, and ambassadors.
  • We think we don’t need imagination because we have truth on our side, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Imagination is required in order to connect the truth to a person and a person to their future.
  • Before he ascended, Jesus told the disciples they would be his witnesses (Acts 1). Growing up in church we talked about witness as both a verb (something we go do) and a noun (something we possessed, and could therefore lose). Jesus wasn’t telling them to do or possess, he was telling them to be. “Witness” is an identity.
  • There are a lot of great definitions of story out there, but here’s mine: story is about people and pursuit.
  • Telling a story on a Sunday means going beyond the broad or the easily accessible. “Faith” is not a story, it’s a topic. A story would be something like, “From Fear to Faith.”
  • The Bible is not a fortune cookie — don’t treat it like one. As Sean Gladding put it, the Bible is the story of God, the story of us.
  • We can honor the Scriptures by honoring the form in which they’re given — story — rather than breaking everything down in soul-less systems and bulleted propositions. We can read the Bible through the lens of people and pursuit.
  • Sources of story: Scripture, history, pop culture, community, congregation, personal experience, imagination, and vision.
  • Where stories fit on Sunday: announcements, offering, music, readings, the Table, art, testimony, preaching, and the Christian calendar.
  • One challenge for us will always be conflict — an essential part of story, but a difficult element for Christians who want to pretend that we’re all shiny, happy people. Can we commit to conflict?
  • Vonnegut said story was “man in hole.” Whether we are ready to admit it or not, we are preaching to men and women in holes. Or who’ve just climbed out. Or who will fall in soon. That’s why we have to tell stories on Sunday.
  • The beauty of story is that within its frame despair turns to hope, pain turns to healing, loss turns to wholeness. It’s in the story of God that wanderer a find the promised land, the cross becomes our salvation, and a tribe becomes a kingdom.

And there you have it — a rambling, disjointed summary of a rambling, disjointed breakout session on story. You can also read these notes from my session courtesy of Church Juice.

What Makes a Good Meal?

Matthew Anderson’s new book, The End of Our Exploring, has me thinking about questions and questioning. Here’s one question I’ve been asking myself recently:

What makes a good meal?

Wait, let me back up …

Five months ago I joined the staff of my church for the last nine years, Irving Bible Church. I soon found that I’d walked into the middle of a number of ongoing conversations, one of which was about our worship services — specifically, their audience, objective(s), design, and execution.

In the midst of this particular conversation, we heard from someone who framed their worship services as something like “a family meal with guests present.” There’s something to that phrase, certainly, and it’s a helpful frame for the saints-versus-seekers debate. And yet, the metaphor begs the question (at least in my mind): What makes a good meal?

In other words, what does the family need to eat, week in and week out, in order to grow and thrive and all that?

This is the question that has my cerebral hamster wheel turning these days (even though it’s not exactly my job as the Communications Pastor to answer it). The question even prompted me to pick up James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom at the recommendation of some colleagues, and the book has proved to be a dense and fascinating read.

I’m terrible at proper book reviews, but suffice it to say that Smith connects our liturgies (sacred and secular) to the shaping of our desires. Worship practices, whether we’re at church or at the mall, teach us to love and desire something, a particular articulation of “the good life.” And so once again I’m asking what should be served at the family meal. What corporate worship practices will best shape the IBC community into the sort of disciples God would have us become?

It’s a big question, and I think it’s a good question. I imagine it’s a question that I and my cronies at IBC will ask often in the months and years to come. If you have any insights, I’d love to hear them. Or if you’re content to simply pray for us in our questioning, I’d appreciate that too.

Now that I’ve shared my question, I’d like to share another link to Matthew Anderson’s The End of Our Exploring. Matthew is a friend and a Moody label-mate, so it’s my pleasure to tell you about his new book and a pretty great opportunity:

If you buy the book by Friday, Moody will send a free digital copy of the book to one person of your choosing. Buy one, give one — it’s that simple. Get the details here.

Coldplay’s Call To Worship (or I Will Try To Fix You)

Shortly after Coldplay burst onto the American music scene, the band’s presence was felt on the American church music scene as well. Sometimes you could see it in the way the worship leader dressed, skipped around the stage, or played the piano. Often you could hear it in the electric guitar riffs that swelled between choruses and verses. I always noticed it most acutely in that one drumbeat — you know the one — POP-puh-puh-POP-puh-puh-POP-puh-POP …

Oh, and there were also the churches who were a bit more on-the-nose with their Coldplay affinity when they actually covered tunes such as “Fix You,” “The Scientist,” or “Viva la Vida.”

Anyway.

Last Sunday I was pleased when Coldplay made a different kind of appearance in the worship service at Irving Bible Church. Our worship pastor, Jason Elwell, took a moment to explain that he and his wife were randomly watching a Coldplay concert film on Netflix when he heard something that grabbed his attention.

Coldplay frontman Chris Martin was expounding on the dynamics of a live performance when he said this:

“Every show is different. When the lights go down, that’s 30,000 people’s lives colliding for that one moment. Everyone there that’s working is working for that one moment, everyone there watching is watching for that one moment. It’s when you’re all kind of in agreement about what you’re doing at that time, so it’s a wonderful feeling of togetherness and possibility.” — Chris Martin

Certainly a gathering of believers can be (and perhaps should be) a colliding of lives. Hopefully, there’s some level of anticipation about what will happen as we gather in the presence of God, knowing that Christ has promised to be present with us as well.

Maybe the question for us is whether we’ll honor the collision, the anticipation, the agreement, and the possibility bound up in worship by telling the story of God and inviting people into it. Anything less than that is, at best, a concert or, at worst, a sanctimonious town hall meeting.

Concerts are enjoyable and town hall meetings are informative, but neither is likely to yield any lasting affect. For us to honor the gathering, the moment, is to incite that which is truly transcendent and transformative. And as we do our work together, the work of the people, we know we can trust God to do His too.

From there, the possibilities are endless.

What Should You Read Next? There’s No Question.

What should you read next? There’s no question. You should read a book on questioning well.

My friend Matthew Anderson has written just such a book — it’s titled The End of Our Exploring: A Book About Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Matthew is both smart and thoughtful (yes, there’s a difference), and I enjoyed this book very much. In fact, here’s the endorsement I penned for The End of Our Exploring:

The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson is smart, challenging, and personal. This book will change the way you question, which is to say it will change the way you think about life, faith, and everything in between.

A couple months later, I stand by that assessment, and I hope you’ll dig into the book for yourself. Perhaps the book trailer will persuade you:

You can also get two excerpts for free (details here), in case you’re the sort who likes to try before you buy. Okay, now off to Amazon you go.

Happy reading and happy questioning.

My Favorite Kind of Book

whatitmeanstobeaman

My friend Rhett Smith released a new book yesterday called What It Means to Be a Man, and I encourage you to pick it up and read it. A few months ago I had the opportunity to read the book and write an endorsement of it, and I happily said yes. Here’s what I wrote:

What It Means to Be a Man is my favorite kind of book, the kind that sets you on a journey of self-discovery. This book is a bridge between the man you are and the man you’re becoming — read it.

Find the book on Amazon here.

Buechner on Hope

I came across this Buechner passage today and had to share it, document it somehow, so that I wouldn’t lose it in the world’s unending flood of words. He’s talking about the intentional act of remembering as a spiritual practice, and how the right kind of remembering actually changes how we think about the future:

“… we have this high and holy hope: that what he has done, he will continue to do, that what he has begun in us and our world, he will in unimaginable ways bring to fullness and fruition.”

Amen.

By the way, this is from the titular essay of Buechner’s A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces. Pick it up.

Buechner on Hope

I came across this Buechner passage today and had to share it, document it somehow, so that I wouldn’t lose it in the unending flood of words. Here’s talking about the intentional act of remembering as a spiritual practice, and how the right kind of remembering actually changes how we think about the future:

“… we have this high and holy hope: that what he has done, he will continue to do, that what he has begun in us and our world, he will in unimaginable ways bring to fullness and fruition.”

Amen.

By the way, this is from the titular essay of Buechner’s A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces. Pick it up.

Tell Me a Story, Reviewed

It has been a little more than a month since Tell Me a Story was released into the wild, and so far the book has been the recipient of some kind and generous reviews and comments. Allow me to highlight a few …

Church Marketing Sucks:

“[Tell Me a Story] looks at life as story and offers inspiration, encouragement and motivation to be worthy storytellers. It’s a great little (only 132 pages) book that condenses and summarizes a lot of the disjointed, buzz worthy and overdone thoughts about story that have floated around in the past few years and shares them in a concise, simple and powerful format.”

Barnabas Piper:

“The theme of the book is story – our stories, God’s storytelling, and the intersection of the two. What stands out in my mind is how this view of reality – living a story – makes so much sense of life. It gives purpose to conflict and pain. It gives motivation to decision making and planning. And it humbles me as I realize that there is an author of truth, the real story, and His story is so much better than what I could compose.”

Restoration Living:

Tell Me a Story helps us (re)find our place in the ultimate story of God’s love and restoration of all things. When we can see beyond ourselves to this larger story, it gives our own story deeper meaning, greater inspiration, and clearer direction.”

Lore Ferguson:

“In a time when so many tell stories and get published quickly, there are few who tell stories that centralize back to the gospel, and Scott shows this well. If you’re a writer, storyteller, speaker, or communicator, I recommend this book for encouragement and instruction.”

There are also several kind reviews on Amazon, including this one from B. Atwood:

“If his goal is to make you want to tell your own life story as seen through the grand metanarrative of the Bible’s redemptive story, or to listen more intently to the stories others have lived, he’s succeeded.”

So there you have it — some kind words about this labor of love I call Tell Me a Story. If you don’t have a copy yet, or if you just haven’t had a chance to read yours yet, I’d love for you to dig in. Even more, I’d love hear your thoughts on the book and your experience with it. If you’re so inclined, drop me a line.

Are You Willing?

This weekend I had a great trip to Killer Tribes Conference (founded and led by my friend Bryan Allain). One of the speakers was Ben Arment, a man I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with several times over the last few years. Ben is one of those people who not only knows what’s going on in popular culture — trends, voices, technology, etc. — but also what’s going on beneath the surface — systems, psychology, and strategy.

When Ben spoke this weekend, he spoke about the way our frustrations and life experiences can point us toward our unique opportunities to make a difference in the world. He was talking about the way our past stories — the joy and the pain — prepare us for what lies ahead. Our wounds in particular shape who we become and what we’re driven to accomplish with our lives.

In the midst of the talk Ben delivered a line that I’m still chewing on, a question I’m still trying to answer:

“Are you willing to be wounded deeply in order to be used greatly?”

Whoa. Wow. Thanks, Ben.

Communications Pastor and author of Tell Me a Story