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We have stories before we have beliefs


We have stories before we have beliefs.  Often people think that church is a place where we are united by beliefs that we share; we are united in a person, Jesus Christ, who has a story too.  To be a follower of Jesus is not to believe things about him but to live in his story.  When the image of a church is a place that requires certain beliefs it becomes very difficult to invite or encourage people to join us.  Many times I have spoken to people who say they are not sure if they believe in God, or that they probably don’t believe all they things they think they are supposed to.  My response to such comments can be to ask them about the God they are not sure they believe in, or to tell them that I’m sure the people in the church aren’t sure they believe all they are supposed to.  That is, the people in the church struggle with beliefs too.  I prefer an image of the church of people struggling together to live in the story of Jesus.  What if we went into the world with this image rather than thinking we need to share what we believe?

Not only do we have stories before beliefs, our stories are never created in isolation.  In our culture there is an idea that we make up our own lives be ourselves but this is wholly impossible.  We are always in relationship with others and are formed in and through those relationships.  Reality itself is interdependent and we are dependent upon all who have come before us, and are who we are as we are connected to others.  The church is a place of connections; it is an environment in which as we relate to each other we form each other and become a part of each other’s stories, and together a part of the Story of God.

When this season comes around, probably more than any other, with children going back to school and summer vacations over and we gear up for the fall, I feel the need to share with the world what a wonderful gift the church is.  I see a lot of lonely people in the world – people who are cynical and feel defeated – people who feel that they have to do everything by themselves and depend on no one; people who see the church as a closed community of people who believe the same thing, who do not know the transformative power of living in community.  And I want to share this different image of the church and of faith.  We do not invite people into our community because we want them to believe like we do, we invite them into our lives, as persons and as a community.  And our first question to visitors is not about belief but about their stories.  Where do you come from?  Who is your family? How do you spend the time of your life? Who are your communities?  One can disagree with someone’s beliefs, but one cannot disagree with another person’s story.

I feel that there are many people who are waiting for us to ask these questions.  We have had many visitors and new people will be in the church through the Preschool.  Now is a good time to reach out to people and invite them into our lives and community.  We have the power to transform the world.  P.Jim


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