Archive for October, 2011

We need to tell a better story

Posted: October 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s all about the story.

Over the past year, a series of books that I’ve read and reread are changing the way that I view my life in God.

I want an awesome story.

Maybe it was in Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, but the idea of a better story really comes through.  Miller’s Blue Like Jazz is an amazing read and some movie producers thought so too.  However, you can’t just take random thoughts, film them and call that a “movie.”  A movie has to have a story. Characters have to interact and risk and change.  You have to tell a better story.

That moves us to A Million Miles.  It’s the story of editing Miller’s life story from Blue Like Jazz and turning it into a movie.

In the book, he shares the story of someone whose life is falling apart.  In the end, this person concludes that he needs to tell a better story.  He changes the story and it changes his life.  It saves his family.  It transforms the world around him.

And I’ve been wondering about that lately, especially when it comes to church.

There’s a story that’s being told about many of our churches (and denominations).  It includes things such as the following:

  • Fewer people are in our churches.  We say it’s because Americans just aren’t as faithful as they once were.
  • Our churches are getting older.  Sometimes we blame it on the commitment level of young people.
  • Our resources are drying up.  Another commitment problem?
  • A death tsunami is coming in 2018 to wipe out much of our aging church and its resources.

We get together in meetings and share this story of gloom and doom and then we wonder why young people don’t want to be pastors.  Maybe it’s just not a very inspiring story. Who wants to be a part of a story where it seems the end isn’t going to be happy?

I’m not trying to be the eternal optimist.  I believe that you have to look at the facts and figures and be honest about the situation.  But the voices of gloom and doom can’t be the only voices in the conversation.  Isn’t the Christian message a proclamation of “Light” in the darkness?  Sometimes there just needs to be more light and hope.

The United Methodist Church (Most denominations for that matter) needs a better story.

And when I look at our church and what it believes, I think we have the makings of an incredible story.

The emphasis on grace, love, mercy, hope, communion with God and others, the presence of God in our best and worst times (Emmanuel) – all of these are the makings of a compelling story.

Why can’t we tell it?

I once heard someone from the seminary relate what had happened to him during an Easter service.  He simply shared the story of the resurrection as best he could.  After the service, a man waited and waited for a chance to speak to him.

When he approached this pastor, the man said, “I’ve heard that story many times before, but you told it like you really believe it.”

The pastor’s response? “I tell it the only way I know how to tell it, because I believe it.”

Years from now, I don’t want to be telling a story that ends badly.  Years from now, I want to be telling a story of God, a story that makes a difference, a story that changes and transforms lives.  Years from now, I want to be more in love with God than I am today and even more convinced that the story has eternal importance.

I didn’t follow this path to become a pastor to tell a story that no one wants to hear.  I want to be able to tell the amazing, life-changing story of resurrection and redemption and hope.  And I want to be able to tell that story, freely and passionately.

In the end, I understand the need for the facts and the details and the discussion of metrics.  But what is all of that going to accomplish if we can’t tell a compelling story?

My story brought me to the United Methodist Church and I loved its story.  It’s time we started telling a better story than we’re telling now.

And it’s time we started telling it like we believed everything depended on it!

The difference a week makes

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him…” — Psalm 28:7

Last Saturday was one of the toughest days that I’ve ever had in ministry.

I entered a 24-hour on-call period for my Chaplain training (one of the requirements for ordination) and I was already worn down.  For the previous few weeks, I had moved toward the completion of my paperwork.  It is stressful having to pull all of that together.  Then, it was due that Friday.

I was just worn down.

Then Saturday came and it was one thing after another.  It was tough stuff, heart-breaking stuff and my soul was just hurting at the end of the day.  Unlike my previous two on-call times, this one was about perseverance.

There was a part of me that wanted to run, just to get in the car and say, “Enough.”  But I pushed through.  I prayed a lot. I shed some tears with and for some people and at the end of the 24-hour period, I walked out.  There’s a lot to be said sometimes for simply bearing it, for making it through.

It was during one of the few brief moments I had to myself Saturday that I read through a King James Bible that chaplains give out when patients request them.  It is there that I settled on Psalm 28 and the reminder of verse 7.  God is my shield and strength.  It was a day in which I needed a shield and I needed more strength than I could find on my own.

I left the hospital around 8:30 Sunday morning and made it back to St. Mark in time for the worship service at 11:15 AM.  I know that I did a sermon on unanswered prayer, but I don’t remember a whole lot of it.  It was my day of truly leaning on the Holy Spirit and realizing with my family and friends I am not alone.

And now, I find myself a week removed from that day and I’m realizing that I have been changed.

It is the ultimate privilege and honor to be invited into the life of another — sometimes at the best of moments and other times in the worst of situations.  It is in those moments, that I realize that God’s invitation and call to a ministry is the opportunity to be a part of a story far bigger than the one I could write on my own.

Even in carrying the weight of a tough and emotional day, I have the opportunity to be a part of the greatest story ever told.

And I’m looking forward to the next page.