Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away!--Isaiah, Chapter 49, verse 1
This month I am focusing on the concept of "telling the story." We are people of the book, like the Hebrew people with whom we share our spiritual ancestry, but it took a while for the book to be written. What we now call the Old Testament started out as stories and rules for living passed down from one generation to the next over a period of hundreds of years. The actual writing of the Bible is estimated to have begun around 1000 years before the birth of Christ. However, it was not until after the Hebrew people experienced a painful forced exile in the foreign country of Babylon (land that today is mostly part of Iraq) that the Hebrew people began to really organize the texts into something one could call scripture. For most of their early history the Hebrew people were people of the land, but with the codification of scripture they became people of the book, an innovation that has enabled their religion to survive periods of persecution, hardship and exile.
Modern day American Christians tend to feel as though this is a period of hardship or even persecution. Most churches are shrinking in membership at a time when the United States population is growing. Churches are growing older in average age while the overall US population remains young. At first glance makes it seems as though the churches that are growing offer stadium seating, surround sound and a variety of other expensive amenities. Most churches cannot compete with that, and few even bother to try. However, appearances can be deceiving. Some non-mega churches are in fact growing. They are growing because they have found a way to focus on telling their stories of faith--both the stories of individuals in the congregation, and the larger story of the faith that we all embrace.
We are part of a great tradition of testimonies of faith, and we need to put our focus on telling our story more often and in more ways.
How can we tell the story? Each of my blog entries in January will focus on a specific way that churches can tell the story.
What is your favorite way of telling the story of your faith? Share in the comments below.
This is part of a series.
Read Part 2, about Offering Hospitality, here.
Part 3, about Telling the Story without Words, here.
Part 4, Talking about Faith, can be found here.