Share Good Stories – A Better Way to Inspire
“If we don’t have good stories then what are we doing here?”
This is the mantra we use as a church staff to open up each of our staff meetings. We are inspired by good stories and we all want to be a part of something that is creating narratives that we are excited to share. I believe that for most churches there is something good that God is producing in that local body of believers. The problem is we have been trained to look at things with a critical eye.
God is always doing something good. If he is doing it in the church in which I serve, I want to hear about it and I want others to overhear it. I want – no, I need to hear what specifically he is doing among us that is in fact, “good.” We settle for “good” and “well” and “fine” as an acceptable answers to the question, “How are you doing?” That may be “ok” as a response to a casual greeting, but we should not settle for that answer when we are attempting to inspire and lead followers of Christ to be like Jesus. “Hey church, things are going ‘good.’”
Stories inspire. Stories compel. Stories give flesh to vision. They bring the future into the present. Specifically, God stories bring the goodness of God into the everyday rhythms of life.
One of the core values for our small group ministry is the practice of sharing. We not only “share life together,” but we share Jesus stories with one another. I remind our small group leaders that I need to be reminded that God is good and he is doing good things.
I am forgetful. I get tunnel vision. When I receive criticism or receive news that something in our church is not going so good I am tempted to believe that nothing is good. Weird right? Or maybe not. It may be all to common for everyone. Bad news sells. Bad news carries better than good news. Its why gossip is so tantalizing. You are drawn into the trap of accentuating the negative. I can begin to see everything through only the lens of a critical eye.
This is why it is most difficult for me to have a genuine worshipful experience as a preacher in my own congregation. Its the curse of the critical eye and ear. “That didn’t happen right. That doesn’t sound right. That was too long or too short. That doesn’t look right. Where is everybody?” If you serve for a church either vocationally or as a volunteer, you know exactly what I mean. If you are “church shopping,” you get it.
Instead of asking the question, “Was it good?” Ask, “How was it used for good?” That reframes your experience. One question assumes the worst. The other assumes the best.
As a leader I desire feedback. I had once agreed to allow a group of people to give me feedback on my preaching. I found some sermon feedback forms online and adapted them for my purposes. A team was selected. I would meet with one person, sometimes two representatives from this sermon feedback team once a week. On one occasion it was reported to me that after one of my sermons a member of the team simply said my sermon was a “2.” That’s a 2 out of 10. No explanation was given. (Not saying that it probably wasn’t a two – meaning it deserved a low rank). I laughed, but I was crushed.
I had learned a good question to ask in case this were to happen. “What prevented my sermon from being scored a ‘1’?” This was the question I wanted the group representative to ask the critic. I wanted him to learn how to be helpful. He had forgotten the purpose of the team. To the critic’s credit, it led to an apology.
I’m not advocating that we should only tell positive stories at the neglect of being critical. One of our organization’s key habits is to, “make it better.” In order to make adjustments you must first recognize that something needs improvement. What I also believe is that we should first choose to be helpful, not just critical. I would rather be described as a helper, not a critic.
Leader’s who guide their church instead of pushing their church know the power of Jesus stories. People who push their church are critics. People who guide their churches are helpers. I am still in the process of learning this.
If you want to make changes to become a helper through the power of Jesus stories start with your own.
A Christian’s testimony without the goodness of God is just a sad story. “I once was… and I still am.” Instead of, “I once was… until I met Jesus… now I am.”
You have a compelling story whether or not you where born on a church pew and baptized too early to remember, or you’re a hardened criminal who discovered the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
Next time you want to be critical, be helpful. Next time you want to share something. Share a good story. Share a good, God story.
Jovan Barrington serves as the Senior Minister for the Littleton Church of Christ near Denver, Colorado. You can find out more about Jovan by visiting his blog or following him on twitter @JovanBarrington.