Telling Our Story

            Most local churches you visit will have a brochure of some sort of handout describing the core beliefs (some churches will call them “doctrinal bylaws”) of their particular church.  With the advent of church websites, these core beliefs can normally be found on a page titled something to the effect of “About Us” or “What We Believe.”  Typically these statements of faith are presented as a series of propositional statements followed by one or two, possibly a few, citations from scripture to justify the particular faith statement (i.e., “We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, and is true God and true man.”  {John 1:2; Luke 1:35}). 

            Though I believe the propositional approach to stating what a church believes is better than declaring nothing, I want to suggest a better approach that takes narrative or story telling into consideration.  Below I have provided an example of this approach which I have began using with the Kandiyohi Church of Christ where I serve as an evangelist/minister.  I am convinced in the value of this approach over the propositional approach for several reasons. 

            You may be wondering why this matters.  For those who are not aware, the North American culture has become more attentive to stories than propositional rationale.  A prime example would be the popular selling book Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.  The book itself is a simple primer on why and what of living the Christian faith (what Miller calls “Christian spirituality”).  Rather than stating a series of propositions followed by rational justification (such as a scripture citation), Miller communicates through a series of loosely connected stories.  The story form of communication has been employed in television and movies for years now because it is powerful and effective.  If you are still not convinced whether story form communication is effective, just remember that this form communication is employed in a number of books from the Bible.

            So here is the example of what I have written for the Kandiyohi Church of Christ.  I have titled it Our Story, The Christian’s Story:

In the beginning, Our God created life.  As part of his creation, God created us to be in communion with God and one another.  Because God loved us, he did not force us to reciprocate his love.  Consequently, we chose to reject the love and communion which God gave to us in exchange for our own self-serving wills called sin.  As a result, our sin has destroyed the relationship we were created to have – communion with God and one another.  But God, in his rich grace, mercy, and love, still pursued a relationship with us.  God began this pursuit by redeeming the people of Israel from which God himself would come from, in the flesh, as the Son, Jesus the Messiah.  In Jesus and by the power of the Spirit, God has sought to restore the communion that our sin destroyed by removing sin through life and death of Jesus on the cross.  Though Jesus suffered and died, God raised him from death as a promise to us that in Jesus the Messiah was true life, eternal life that could never be destroyed again. 

 

By faith we accepted God’s gift of redemption, repented of our sins and surrendered our life in the waters of baptism to Jesus who is our Lord and Savior.  In turn, God has given us his Holy Spirit, making us his people, the church, along with everyone else who follows Jesus as Lord and Savior.  We are the church where communion with God and one another is a reality – the new reality – once again.  God has left us his Spirit as both a promise of our salvation and the source of God’s power in us as we live out this new reality.  We wait for the day when Jesus, who has ascended to heaven, will come again as he promised.  In the meantime, because we belong to a new reality and life, we live out this story as a proclamation to the world that in Jesus the Messiah God is victorious over all darkness and death and that there is hope for a world lost in darkness and death.

 

            Currently, I am preaching a series of sermons on this to show why I believe this is the biblical portrayal of what the core essence of the Christian faith is.  I have tried to develop this statement as comprehensive and coherent as possible to the entire biblical portrayal of the Christian faith, while also restricting it to the core essence of the faith.  In other words, I did not want to get into the specifics of what we believe church polity consists of or what we believe a biblical marriage ought to be.  Though we do have beliefs on all of these other less than core issues, I felt it would be counter productive to try and include every single issue that might appear important to some. 

            Further more, I wanted to keep the emphasis on what God is doing while not negating the fact that I believe scripture teaches that all people have a choice to either accept the redemptive work of God or reject it.  I believe that salvation is the work of God and not the work of humanity.  Though we have been given a choice, I did not want to present our choice in such a way that it would make our choice as active agent effecting our salvation.

            As for the narrative statement itself, I wanted it to show how there is a continuity between the various doctrines of the Christian faith.  In addition to the continuity, I wanted to demonstrate how each doctrine progressively moves from the beginning to a goal.  In light of this, the art form of narrative seemed more conducive than the propositional form. 

            Beyond all that, I also believe the narrative form is more helpful in term of discipleship training which has always been one of the purposes behind creating a statement of faith to begin with.  When I was a child, my brother and I would watch TV shows like The Rifle Man, Gunsmoke, or The Big Valley and then we would go out a play out (live out) those stories.  We knew what the story line was, we knew who the characters were, and we knew how the story finished (good guys always win).  Much like these famous western cowboy shows, Christianity is a story and we know what the story line is, who the characters are (God as Father, Son, and Sprit, and church), and how the story finishes (God and his people are victorious).  So now what we need to do is go out and live this story.  How do we do live the Christian story out?  When my brother and I were children we had Matt Dillon (Gunsmoke) or Lucas McCain (The Rifleman) as our teacher.  The Christian church has Jesus Christ as her teacher and that is why we, who belong to the church, are called disciples (the learners, followers).

8 responses to “Telling Our Story

  1. Thank you. I appreciate the fact that this introduces me to Jesus (who adds to the churh) rather than the typical approach which acts as if the church adds to the Lord. Well done.

  2. You ever hear someone say, “Man, I just HATE a good story.” ???

    I haven’t.

  3. Thank you for your work on this. Well done.

  4. Rex,
    I just read about the death of your son on Matthew’s blog. I don’t know how long ago it happened, but I want you to know that I am sorry that you and your family went through such pain. Please know that I care.

  5. Terry,

    Thank you very much for your kind words. Our first child (we have three) Kenny was born and died in 2002. We remember him every day. Though we never have got over his passing, we have learned to live with it and trust in God again. God is great and I look foward to not only seeing God face to face again but also seeing my son Kenny again.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  6. Great post, Rex. Great Story, too. My story makes more sense in the Great Story. You’ve done something very special here and I hope it has a broad influence.

  7. Thanks Jason. Right now I am just praying that the idea of thinking of our faith as a story to be lived out will have influence over the Kandiyohi Church of Christ. I have been preaching through this story (this week I am preaching on the cross of Jesus as the ‘Christus Victor’ that sets us free to live). I have heard a couple of people in conversation begin to make the connection between God’s created intent for us and what God is redeeming us to.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  8. Rex,
    I want to thank you so much for this post. I have been so blessed by it and have learned so much. I love blogs that make you think and challenge you to stretch and grow. Your blog does just that! Rex I hope you have a great week! 🙂

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