Whose story is it anyway?

There was lots of discussion coming out of #medialit11 last week about telling stories. As a narrative preaching enthusiast I couldn’t be happier. Stories have the power to get under the defensive radar of scepticism and unleash their payload in the heart. Ever since Nathan the prophet told his cautionary tale to the king and Jesus his provocative parables to the crowds, the Kingdom has been growing on the back of good stories.  The trouble is, we don’t always notice that we have them right in our midst.

Last year when on holiday in Dorset, I paid a visit to the Tolpuddle martyrs museum.  Built on the edge of the village of Tolpuddle, it commemorates the story of six local men in the Nineteenth Century who formed an association (which was illegal at the time) to protest about workers’ rights. They were later transported as punishment, and out of their courageous stand the modern Trades Union movement was born. Today the museum is something of a ‘shrine’ to  Trades Unionism. This is hardly surprising.  However, five of the six men were Methodists, two of them were lay preachers, and it is apparent from reading the sermons of these two that their actions were driven by a profound faith. Their rebellion against their treatment was driven by their view that the treatment itself was an offence to God. How have we allowed such a story to slip through our fingers and become a story about politics rather than Gospel?

One of the  many topics of discussion at yesterday’s hefty missiological gathering was the need to treat the workplace as a serious mission opportunity. If the kingdom is to grow then this is, of course, vital. In order to do this, though, we must hear and celebrate the stories of God at work at work. We need to forge stronger links between that part of our lives which we see as church and those parts which we see as ‘other’. Like the synapses, or neural pathways, in the brain – these links get stronger with use and help us to develop a more holistic worldview.

In our church we have a wall-to-wall weekly programme. Every day the building is busy, both with groups run by the church and community groups too. In a light-hearted attempt to make the link between these things and the church’s core purpose, we put the following sign up. Within a couple of hours three people had commented on it. Makes you wonder how well we have been telling our story?