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Recently my wife and I binge-watched the show "Departure." Departure follows a crash investigator (season one: a plane crash, season two: a high-speed rail crash) who sifts through the clues to discover why a crash occurred. As you can imagine, there are always nefarious characters behind what's happened. There is never a simple mechanical failure or human error; people manipulate everything for money, pride, and power. 

The second season takes place (supposedly) in Michigan. It was filmed in Canada and connected to Universal TV in the U.K. For someone who lives in Michigan, this meant a lot of opportunities to ask questions about the characters, scenery, and props (no, Michigan license plates don't look like that, and we don't have plates on the front of the car—and by the way, federal vehicles would not use a Michigan license plate).

But there are other questions to be asked.

  • Who are the heroes, and who are the villains?
  • How is the lead character always in the right place at the right time while no one else is? 
  • Does faith play any part in the story?

Indeed, we can ask such questions of a TV show, but the truth is you can also ask them about the stories your family of God tells. 

Every congregation tells stories. These stories may be told formally or informally. Wherever or however these stories are told, they shape the life and direction of the congregation. Such accounts have more power than the church's vision, more power than the council's decisions, and more power than what the people of God say at a congregational meeting. 

They have more power because these stories tell us who we are and what we value. Stories will always win the day. Peg Neuhauser writes,

A well-told story has the ability to stick with people long after facts and figures have faded. It is also true that the story will be repeated with far greater frequency than any statistical report. And it has the best chance of convincing its audience of the truth of its values and ideas. What makes a story for powerful as a method of communicating information or ideas? according to social scientists, there are two main reasons

  • Stories make information easier to remember.
  • Stories make information more believable. 

The power of stories leads us to ask questions about the stories told in our faith communities

  • Who are the heroes, and who are the villains?
  • Does faith play a part in this story? 
  • Does this story build up people's faith or tear it down?
  • What are the values and virtues that are lifted up?
  • Is this a story about our faith community working together?
  • Does this story align with what we say we value?
  • Does this story build up the body of Christ?
  • How does this story show we love people?
  • How does this story show we don't respect people?
  • Who is allowed to take risks here?
  • How does this story reveal how things work in our congregation?
  • Do these stories move us forward in following God's call?

What other questions would you add to ask of the stories your congregation is telling?

Graciously questioning our stories helps us discover what our congregation values and alerts us to other stories we may need to speak to build up God's sacred family.

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