November 14, 2013

How Powerful Are The Stories We Tell?

James Fallows of The Atlantic has been working on a series called, "American Futures." Last night I heard Fallows on NPR's Marketplace in which he said about those small American towns that are making an economic come back are "doing well in part because they're building a specific story." That's right. This journalist is arguing that the narratives impact economics.

Stories are powerful!

In his interview on Marketplace, Fallows goes on to say that, "The way people understand their past and the things that worked affects their view of the present and more importantly the future."

... I wonder what churches could learn from this.

Last August, several of us from the Diocese of Washington attended a church planting conference in Minneapolis. Key organizer of the conference, Doug Pagitt, invited us to consider how we might complete three statements:

  • I come from a people who…
  • I come from a place where…
  • I bring with me…
We often get stuck on the wrong points in our history. And sometimes, we simply avoid our history altogether. But reflecting on our stories does seem critical to shaping our future!

Jesus seemed to continually be attempting to help his followers re-orient their narrative, their story. His disciples, if not all of Israel, wanted him to be like king David. Jesus seems to have been of the opinion that Israel was remembering the wrong part of their past. He came after the fashion of Moses, more than David. That was the point in Israel's history they most needed to recall.

I'm wondering if sometimes the aspects of our stories we least like to tell are the chapters we most need to tell. Maybe it is within those parts of our narratives–that aren't necessarily the highlights–in which God shows up the most; the aspects of our lives in which the greatest "good news" is to be found. Maybe it is within the shadows of our stories that we can find what we need for renewal, transformation... indeed, resurrection.

What do you think?

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