Telling Stories On Sunday

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.

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