Telling Better Stories
I read an article recently that used an amazing analogy. The author described the need for evangelicals to tell better stories, and in his description of the issue he shared the following:
“There is an old saying about how to build a navy. Navies require ships, and ships, at least when this adage got started, require lumber. But the best way to build a navy is not to teach men to go into the woods, fell trees and build boats. The best way to build a navy is to tell men stories of the sea. They’ll figure out the carpentry.” – Ryan Sanders, Dallas Morning News
It struck me as an interesting concept, and I began to wrestle with my own ability and practice of storytelling within my evangelical framework. I get to tell the story of God on a regular basis through a myriad of lenses, Scriptures, and environments. I am very happy with the story I get to tell, and in short, I was happy with the way I was telling it. The gospel is, without a doubt, the single most impactful story the universe has ever heard. What struck me as I wrestled with this idea was that, deep down, I was coming from a mindset that didn’t match the power of the story I was telling. Was I truly acting like I had the story that cures the depths of the human condition? The following statement made me ask: Am I an exception to this or smack dab in the middle of it?
“This is a lesson American evangelicals have largely failed to learn. In all our apologetics and jeremiads, we’ve forgotten to give our neighbors compelling reasons to want to embrace our social vision. In many cases, they think, ‘I have a neighbor who says he’s an evangelical. Why would I want a country full of people like him?’” – Ryan Sanders, Dallas Morning News
As I read this, I had to ask myself: Am I telling an inspirational and compelling story? Are my words and my conduct telling the world around me that an evangelical social vision is the best way to approach the world? If I’m honest, I don’t know that many of my neighbors know me well enough to be able to answer that question. What I have been challenged to do at this point in my journey is to start there. I can make myself more known to those in my neighborhood. I can love so clearly and meet practical needs where I can, so that I earn the right to answer the question, “Why do you live this way?”
This is the gold medal round of the Christian evangelistic experience! You have loved so well that you have received the privilege of an inquiry. Someone has actually taken notice of your words and conduct and is now asking you for the engine behind the social racecar that is your life!
Our story is now on display in our lives and not just through our easily misunderstood doctrines.
It is at this point that we have told a better story. Our story is now on display in our lives and not just through our easily misunderstood doctrines. Although doctrinal positions can certainly guide our lives, they can be void of relationship. Does the doctrine shared in our churches on Sunday mornings make a difference to people who are dropping in on a service in the midst of their painful daily walks through a broken world?
It is at this point that the gospel starts to cost us something very real and precious. We have to put ourselves out there and commit our time and relational energy into the lives of those around us. We must be willing to invest and earn the right to tell the story of Jesus. We are not entitled to this right in a post-Christian culture but have to earn it. This is the essence of telling better stories and I am constantly striving, in my own life, to develop in this area for an everchanging world around me.