“We interpret life through story.” That’s what Dr. David Lose shared in a workshop I attended not to long ago. And yesterday I experienced just how powerful one’s faith story can be in conveying the truth of the gospel. Your story, my story, our story together makes a difference when it comes to inspiring and encouraging faith in others and the faith community. I joined my friends for worship at a large multi-site non-denominational church near their home in Littleton CO. Worship began more like a rock concert with high impact music in a darkened room with the words projected on screens front, left and right. After the opening song and some brief announcements the lead pastor provided the 30 minute message on the theme of joy and how God longs for us to know joy in our lives through a faith and life focused on God’s love for us. I won’t critique the theology of the message (it’s not called a sermon or homily here) because that’s not what impacted me the most. What struck me the most was the pastor’s use of storytelling to convey the message.
Throughout his portion of the message he shared points from his own life that illustrated the point he was trying to convey. It really helped in connecting the dots between Paul’s message to the Philippians and our lives today as he understood it. But that wasn’t the most powerful part of the message. Since we were at a satellite campus the message was already being projected onto a large screen in front and on both sides so when the pastor said, “Listen to this story of how one of our members has experienced joy in the midst of anxious times” the screen image changed to a pre-recorded piece. In it the woman shared her story of battling breast cancer and how her faith enabled her to face the challenges and suffering of the treatment. This wasn’t like any testimony I’d ever experienced in worship. She had gone to the pastor’s house and was sharing her story with him over his kitchen table. Like a television interview the screen would periodically show pictures she had taken during her treatment that gave us a better picture of what she was describing. In the end, the pastor shared letters the congregation had shared with him to give to her, each one describing how her faith and journey through her treatment had been an inspiration to them in their own journeys of faith. Portions of these letters were read by the authors as the screen showed them writing their words on paper. Finally, the interview returned to the woman to have us hear in her own voice the words of a member who had taken the time to share her faith story with this woman of faith.
Wow! Imagine if we shared our faith stories periodically in worship as this woman had done. Tears were in the eyes of my friend sitting next to me. I heard the sniffles of others emotionally impacted by this woman’s story of life, struggle, and faith that enables her to experience joy in the midst of suffering. And what impressed me was how non-threatening the entire experience was for her sharing it over the kitchen table of her pastor rather than standing up at a microphone in front of the entire congregation. The other production pieces edited in after the interview only enhanced the impact of this woman’s story for we the congregation. Her story made the biggest difference in conveying the message of the day…in knowing God we will know joy even when times are hard. David is right. We do interpret life through story, and when we share our story of faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead in the resurrection and how that gives us hope in the midst of our life’s sufferings, it inspires others to trust and believe in God as well. So what is your story? Share it. It makes a difference.
Blessings on the way. Pastor Wayne