The god of Story: Part 1

Is it possible to be so obsessed with your own story that you ruin it? Working at a church, I hear the word “story” all the time. What’s your story? I want to live a better story. We need to tell more stories. Where do I fit in to God’s story?

I read a book not too long ago that submitted the idea that, at the end of your life, if the most exciting thing about your story is that you bought a car versus building a well, would you be satisfied with that? Now, of course, if your greatest ambition in life is to buy a car and your chief end is to consume things, that’s not a life worth living. But part of the sentiment pushed in that message is that great stories in life always rise above the mundane. A great story is not a day in which you read your Bible, go to work, love your wife and kids, have a nice meal, and go to sleep.

But what if, in God’s eyes, an amazing story is a man who never travels to a big city or the mountains, but remains faithful to his wife for a lifetime. What if a great story is a mom who never gets a college education, but teaches her children to read the Bible? What if a story worth living is not necessarily building a well in a foreign land, but giving a large portion of one’s income each month to help others in a way that will never be publicly recognized?

I think this obsession with living a great story is ruining our stories, stealing our joy, and causing us to miss out on God’s daily provision of pleasures in the little things of life.

In our next couple of blogs, we want to give a few reasons why and how our own stories become our gods.

The god of Story Contributor: Celebrity Christianity

When you ask someone where they go to church, and they tell you the name of a place, and you ask them why they go there, their response (at least in my experience) every time is, “I really like the preaching,” or, “The worship is awesome.” Lately, I’ve even heard things like, “Well I left such-and-such church because the parking sucked, and this church’s parking was way better and a lot closer to my house.” I have even heard, “I really don’t like how that church has so many different people teach. I like it when it’s just one guy so I know what I’m getting into.”

Hardly ever do people answer the question of why they go to a church with reasons based on the New Testament’s definition of what a Church is. Things like fellowship, breaking bread together, sharing resources, discipline, teaching the Bible, or training and equipping church members to do the work of the ministry are completely foreign. It’s not just that people don’t mention them, they don’t even know that these are basic signs of a healthy church. Instead, it’s almost always the “celebrity factor.”

Some say that successful Christians are those who are famous. If someone has written a book, been in a video, or teaches in front of a crowd on a regular basis, they are worth listening to or meeting with, even though there’s a good chance the elderly man standing next to you in the isle could have an enormous amount of wisdom on life and the Bible, and will probably go completely unknown by many.

A friend of mine, a high school teacher, was invited by a friend to watch a game at a “famous pastor’s” house. Other famous ministers were there, too. It was a small group of men watching the game. He said not one of them said a word to him, except the friend of his who brought him. Now granted, there’s a slim possibility those pastors had some personal reason for not engaging with this neighbor who entered their house, but his response to the experience was worth noting: “If we’ve gotten to the point where a local pastor can’t show basic hospitality to someone face to face, why should anyone listen to them face to crowd?”

In 1 Corinthians 2-4, Paul describes the difference between a mature believer and immature ones. He specifically says to them, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).

He goes on to explain that an immature believers view of the church involves exalting leaders like Apollos, Peter, and even himself. His response to this idea of arguing over which man is more worthy of following is simple, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 5:5-6).

Whenever we exalt man’s giftedness above God’s power to cause growth in our life, our story becomes about man. We become the center, and live under the pressure to do something amazing. Take the pressure off, and look at the ultimate history that has been woven into our story through Christ, and live with zeal knowing that we are already part of the greatest story ever told.

-Mark Zeiler

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