Monday, April 21, 2008

Tell me a story.

It's nice to be home today after a busy weekend. I spent Sunday in Cleveland speaking at Fellowship Bible Church. They are good people who accepted me in spite of my being a Bengals fan. I hope to see them again sometime. Their student ministry is coming to SOS at The Vineyard this summer, so I'll see several of the kids when they get to town. Their church is currently talking about the spiritual disciplines, so I shared the stuff with them from Nouwen on intimacy, community and ministry. I also shared that at the CCU small groups conference on Saturday...and at the VCC weekend last week.

I felt a little bit like Barack Obama giving his "change" stump speech. I can't imagine how tired he and his staffers must get of hearing him say the same things everyday to a different crowd. We generally live in a "one a done" culture these days. With the youtube and the internet and the phone cameras and all...just record everything and you don't have to say it or do it again.

I'm not a techno-hater, but I wonder if the simple, oral repetition of truth and story have a unique power in the transformation of both hearer and speaker. I've probably told the story of the woman at the well over 100 times, including five times in the last week. The same with the woman caught in adultery, the healing of the blind man on the Sabbath, etc. Those stories are in me now. I don't have to prepare to tell them - I just tell them. They evolve and morph to different settings, but they never change. They are my personal love stories. I've also told the story of how I met my wife at least 100 times. Our story contextualizes to different people and settings as well, but it never changes. It simply is. Those Jesus stories have the same real meaning and personal historicity to me as my Debbie stories or my childhood stories, or my parenting stories. They shape me - make me - and I am being made to fit into them still.

A friend (I honestly can't remember who - maybe Murph?) told me recently that I've made a living out of telling people stories that have already been written, and that most everyone has already heard. I had mixed emotions when I heard him say that. It is true, by and large. The part of me that wants to be original would rather he had said that I've made a living telling my own stories. I have told some of my "own" stories, but they pale in comparison to the stories I plagiarize. I'm a hack compared to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Especially, John - forget about it. He's a master storyteller.

The last eight days have been full of opportunities for me to tell my stories. I'm just strangely struck today at the work that storytelling does on the storyteller. I'm left wondering today what would happen if the church embraced storytelling not as a teaching style, but as a leadership ethos. What if we all saw ourselves not as story-listeners, but as story-tellers? What does that sort of community look like? What if we quit saying, "How are you today?" and started saying, "Tell me a story."

5 comments:

Stephen Burks said...

Yes, Joe. St. Francis would be proud of you. The truth of the Gospel is most alive in the hands of a master storyteller - and that you are, my friend. You've told the story of the woman caught in adultery a 100 or more times, I've heard it at least as many, but yesterday - it was fresh again - as though I was hearing it again for the first time. Thank you for that.

Barbee said...

...and as for me I stand in agreement with Stephen. Although I have heard the story of the woman caught in adultery many times...your telling it yesterday threw me back to my own personal woman caught in adultery story when Jesus said to me 16+ years ago, just as He did to that woman...you are forgiven - now stop it. Thanks for the reminder of my own redemptive story through the telling of His story. His story is always fresh.

ylmurph said...

for the record
It was Chris and not I who said that you make a living telling stories...

watershed said...

I have just discovered this through the Vineyard Regional website. I am so encouraged that people are using narrative to communicate. I am amazed that so many in the Vineyard are becoming open to emerging ideas.

Terrence said...

Tell me a story,or Whats your story, I like that. Everyone has a story to tell. I know I love to tell stories myself. It seems to come somewhat natural. I just need to incorporate His story more