Saturday, January 10, 2009

5.4 Preservation and Change

I’ve read one book that explicitly addresses story telling and sharing the Gospel in the evangelical Christian church. Mark Miller writes from an interesting tension between innovation and reverence for that which must be preserved. As a youth pastor in an evangelical church, Miller uses experiential storytelling to introduce young people to the gospel and to disciple them in the life and teachings of Jesus. Using partially scripted events he leads youth through a reenactment of a New Testament story, followed by time for reflection according to different learning and personality styles (options include: quiet journaling, talking in a group, or playing basketball…).

Miller draws the justification for his preaching style from his understanding of the Bible. “When we shed the chains of traditions and assembly-line faith, we open ourselves up to a type of freedom that I see permeating Scripture.” (Miller, 2001, p. 57) Furthermore, he extends his reasoning to include God’s own self, “For an indescribable God to reveal himself, he has to use a variety of symbols. One symbol or method would fall dreadfully short of the glory of his splendor and creativity.” (Miller, 2001, p. 108) His reverence carries echoes of Sara Maitland’s celebration of a big-enough God.

But we cannot overlook the tension he works within. On page 37 he says the following about the power of not only engaging scriptural stories, but also personal ones:
People can argue doctrine and theology. They can even sit with arms crossed listening to someone’s convincing reason why they should believe. But when powerful stories begin to be told, and when a person can identify with another person’s journey, the arms drop, the defensiveness wanes, and a receptive ear is gained. Faith has become personal.

Ten pages later he issues a caveat, “Methods change, but the message does not. We must preserve the integrity of God’s story as all costs.” (Miller, 2001, p. 47) My question endures the same tension between affirming God’s truth and challenging how we express it.

Secular story experts share Miller’s caution. I like the way storyteller Erica Helm Meade puts it best, “A good teller serves a story by bringing forth its fundamental design, the way a good pruner brings out the essential grace of a tree. The secret is in the balance between improving and preserving.” (Meade, 2001, p. 20) This will have special implications going forward with my inquiry. Do women’s stories improve the articulation of the fundamental design of evangelical Christianity? Can they be included in such a way as to preserve the essential message of the faith? I think so, and I think that doing so is vital to honoring these intentions. A story that renders women other is evidence of having pruned too far - crippling the shape and threatening future growth of a tree that would extend its branches to tap against the attic windows, making a joyful noise to the one who resides there.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.