“Story” is a buzz-word in today’s culture. Why? I’m sure there are a number of reasons, but chief among them is the fact that for the most part, any claim to knowing truth is met with skepticism and distrust. In the past, a preacher could communicate truth from the pulpit and expect it to be received. Today, however, people base their understanding of truth on experience. “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That is why the concept of someone’s “story” is so powerful today. Story has to do with experience, and experience is hard to argue with. Of course, a person’s take on truth may or may not be reliable even when based on that experience, but it grabs our attention none-the-less.
For many of us, when we hear terms like “Biblical story-telling,” our minds immediately jump to that second-grade Sunday-School class. That sounds boring, even patronizing. But surprisingly, this is not the experience of mature believers and leaders all over who are marveling as this movement has begun to sweep the globe with amazing effectiveness. Mission Frontiers magazine has written about the “Discipleship Revolution,” and the link between effective discipleship and Biblical Storytelling. Real Life Ministries Church, one of the fastest growing churches in the nation, has re-formatted its approach to small groups to include storying, and has seen tremendous growth as a result. Missionaries everywhere are rediscovering the importance of oral communication and storytelling as arguably the most effective means of sharing the Gospel and equipping for discipleship.
At Anacortes Christian Church, we invite you to engage with God’s story, and see for yourself if the truth of God’s Word can come to life in a fresh new way. In our current series, “God’s Redemptive Story,” we are launching a church-wide campaign in which certain D-Groups (Discipleship oriented small groups) will accompany the content of Sunday’s messages. The groups will approach the content from a “Biblical Storytelling” approach during the week prior to Sunday. Sunday’s message will then approach the same material from a more analytical angle, resulting in a rounded approach to learning the Word of God.
The focus of any group meeting is based on the premise that Discipleship only happens in relational environments. Building relationships is key. Therefore, each group time usually includes a time of informal sharing. There is also a time of prayer. Sometimes, a group will find that the issues facing members of the group necessitate a prolonged time of discussion and prayer. If the story is not covered during that week, it’s okay. Caring for one another expresses Jesus in a real way just as sharing the story does. When the story is shared, it usually follows a simple progression:
1. A member of the group tells the story from memory, in his / her own words, not reading from the text, but not adding or subtracting from it either. The member doesn’t have to be the leader. In fact, leaders are encouraged to challenge their members to share the story as a means for growth and equipping one another. As the member learns to tell the story, it will be awkward at first, but that is part of the beauty of growing in community together. Members will improve in their ability to tell the story effectively and dramatically in order to engage the listeners.
2. Someone in the group will be asked to tell the story again to the best of their ability, based on what they remember of it. This will not be perfect, but research shows that when the story is repeated, it is more solidified in the minds of those listening as they recall details that were included or left out.
3. The member telling the story will lead through the story by asking questions, solidifying the details. Again, research shows that the third time’s the charm.
4. The story teller will ask a series of questions, prompting the individuals to discuss key observations in the story.
5. Based on the observations, the story teller will ask a final series of questions on how the observations gleaned from the story apply to real life. “How does this change our beliefs or practices?”
6. There will be an opportunity to close with discussion and prayer however applicable.
It is amazing to hear what comes out of these discussions. We often find that different perspectives reveal layers upon layers of depth and meaning behind a story that can easily be missed.
Group leaders will be able to pick up a guide to help them with questions and observations on the Sunday prior the following Sunday’s message. It is important that the group’s experience of the story not be tainted by what they have already heard from the message. That is why it will be up to the group leader to collect the guides at the kiosk in the church foyer prior to the following Sunday’s message, so that the D-Group will be able to cover that material during that week.
On Sunday, January 23rd, ACC will host a “Group Link” event, in which we invite anyone currently in a group or seeking to get involved to come, experience community, hear the story presented together, and have the opportunity to connect with an existing group, or perhaps even form a new one. The event will start at 6:00pm. This is a great opportunity to get connected. Don’t let it pass you by.
If you cannot make it, please make an effort to connect with Mike at the church, and together we can explore which options will work best for you in terms of a group to plug into.