Storytelling as Relationship Building

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Last Fall someone wrote a story about his mother in these columns. Within days there were more than a half-dozen appreciative responses.

Stories have a strange fascination for most of us. A story well-told is a bit of an extension of our individual lives. We can relate to the story teller as well as to the people in the story. The reverse is also true. The story-teller feels affirmed in our attentive ear. Storytelling, then, depends for its success on a momentary relationship between teller and listener, be it ever so fleeting. Story telling comes with a bit of recognition. We feel affirmed.

Now it is exactly this personal, emotional element in storytelling that presents a challenge.

When we walk out of church after the service, we will readily direct a few remarks to the person next to us. But the CRC has had the privilege, these last few decades, of welcoming people who in many ways were different from those who founded the denomination. They've come from Asia, Africa, Latin America, or are Native Americans or First Nation peoples. We may be more hesitant to make small talk with them. Will they appreciate our remarks? Can they relate to what we say? 

It is exactly in these respects that we must use some spiritual determination and resolution. We must do what doesn't come easily. We must direct words of kindness to these new members. A conversation my not come as quickly as we may like but we will also observe appreciation and thankfulness in the eyes of that person.

We will discover two things. We will find that we really don't differ much from these new members: we have our humanness in common, and, bless us, our faith. Once the ice is broken, further storytelling will follow. We will also discover that there are several members among us who have already found that talking with new members is rewarding. We all come from these encounters richer and more thankful to God for His grace that came to all nations through the centuries.

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I'm reading a book called, "The Skeptical Believer: telling stories to your inner atheist" by Daniel Taylor. He points out that the Lord chose to reveal himself through story. The Bible is filled with stories that reveal who God is;  we understand and believe truths about God, because they are connected to and arise out of the stories. And faith is not believing a list of propositions, but rather living into the story that we choose to believe.

It is true that people around the world are more similar than dissimilar! How much greater to share stories that unite believers in Christ-- no matter what their race, gender, or socio-economic background! 

 

Jesus.  The Greatest Story ever told.   And we believe the story.  And we believe Jesus.