This is an email I sent to a friend of mine about a video we watched – I have expanded on it a little bit to make it into a cogent post.
I just had some quick thoughts from last night’s discussion. I thought it was great to talk about how we can share our stories with others and how Allender shared how important story-telling is and how it needs to be compelling. Below I unpack some of my thoughts and share a link from a friend and mentor of mine.
Being in sales I have to read who I am selling to – some doctors want the quick and dirty numbers for the clinical efficacy of my product, but most of the time the doctors and nurses’ eyes would glaze over if all I did was spit out numbers so I rely on stories and analogies to convey how my products and service are superior to any of my competitors. My time with the doctors and nurses is short enough as it is, most of the time I only have 15 seconds with the doctors, so I have to make the most of my time so I put things in (short) story form and make it compelling to them. I could straight up only tell them that the lung deposition with my product is 82% respirable fraction, and that the particle size is 2.5 microns, but they hear those and other numbers from the 30 other pharmaceutical reps that come in to bug them. So I include those numbers when I share the analogy of comparing pushing a golf ball through a garden hose (my competitor) versus letting a BB roll through the garden hose (my product). I can tell you that when I use that analogy I get a much greater reaction and understanding versus just spitting out numbers. Again, I mention that because our stories are important – it’s the manner in how we tell it to make it compelling. So why does our story need to be compelling? Because it conveys the work that God’s influence can have in our lives.
To me as I began to re-discover and unpack the theology that makes sense to me is that if we’re going to share the “good news of the gospel” (I am really not a fan of christianese) that it needs to be compelling – otherwise people won’t care about what we’re sharing. I think that Christianity continues to lose traction in our culture because it is not relevant (compelling). So many times we as Christians try to share the “good news” and it falls on deaf ears because we haven’t related to our “audience” and what it means to “them” (another post for later is the discouraging “us vs them” mentality christians have). And I’m not taking for granted how God says, “those who have ears to hear” and also “pearls before swine” but that doesn’t give us an excuse for telling our story in a way that sucks and know God will take care of it if they’re “chosen” by God. (boy that last sentence has so many theological implications ;) The church used to be a huge player in culture by being a great producer of the arts – paintings, sculptures, theater, poetry, literature etc (all of those are compelling b/c they tell stories in different ways and people LOVE stories) but then the church and Christians withdrew from culture (that’s a long separate discussion for why) and christians created little christian ghettos and said “We’ll be in here away from the big bad culture”; this caused a divide between the sacred and the secular (again, an “us versus them” mentality) and because of this attitude we (christians) lost touch with what it means to be compelling to the wider world (I don’t like the terms “sacred & secular” and instead use “wider world”) and we were ok with that; I don’t think God smiles on that attitude. Why is that not ok? Because God calls us to redeem the earth – “…thy will be done ON EARTH, as it is in heaven”. Just look at Paul and his visit to Mars Hill and how we related to those who were worshipping an unknown God, spoke to them by the poets they were reading.
Everything can be compelling it just depends on how we share it. In good story-telling there needs to be something that people can relate to. In every story that we hear in our daily lives we try to link it up to an experience we have encountered – it helps us make sense of what somebody is telling us. If we can not relate it to an experience we have had, or something that makes sense, then it will likely not be compelling to us, or maybe at least as compelling as it could be. Most of us have experienced “a tragedy” or a crisis in one way or another – people can relate to tragedies and crises – at that point the story becomes compelling. It is also one of the points Allender points out as a key component to story telling.
I know I’ve rambled on a bit, but all of this to me is so very important.
One final thing: below is a link to a post written by a mentor of mine when I lived in KC – he lives in Maryland but would fly in once a month and just blow our minds with his intelligence. He is seriously once of the most intelligent men I’ve ever met. The post is about what I spoke about last night and how he (and I) try to look to find God in everything in our culture – everything is sacred. He taught us about the “four course gospel” [Creation (ought) Fall (is) Redemption (can) Restoration (will)]. And how most recently the church (at large) has been preaching from a 2 chapter point of view – the middle 2 chapters (fall and redemption) which has put a lot of people, churches, and denominations in a state of confusion in why we should care about the earth and the people around us (even going as far to omit the great commission!) and it created evacuation theology meaning that they don’t care about what happens on earth, they want what Dallas Willard in the “Divine Conspiracy terms a “gospel of sin management” which is a “get my butt in heaven and that’s all that matters”. The problem with that is that it leaves out redeeming our culture and if you look around at your work, in your leisure, in your own home, you can probably see some things that can be redeemed (made as God intended). It’s just like what we heard last night from Mark when he said that at his work (building houses) he says to his employees, “That needs to be re-done”, I know I was thinking I wish my builder would’ve cared that much, but that’s exactly of how we redeem (or reclaim) our work. We should do it the way God originally intended when he created us. Mark’s example and his great leadership shows us three chapters – Creation (ought – how god originally intended for things to be), Fall (is – how things are (broken)), Redemption (can – how things can be by us redeeming our culture) and then the last chapter is only something God can do when he restores all things fully.
If we are able to make it compelling then we will not have to endure christian stories being stuck in the old, tired way of saying, “Screw you earth and I’m just waiting for the rapture”. (that will be yet another bog-post later)
Philosophy, to those who understand
It well, explains not solely in one place,
That Nature takes its course from God’s own mind
And from His art. And if you will peruse
The Physics of the master, you will see,
Not many pages into it, that art
Is nature’s faithful follower, just like
A pupil to his master. Art, therefore,
Is but the grandchild of Divinity.
If you remember Genesis, it is
From nature and from art that men must seek
To earn their bread and to advance themselves.
But usurers, proceeding otherwise,
Despising nature and her followers,
Rely on gullibility for gain.
- Dante Alighieri from “Inferno”