I have written before that I am a big fan of stories. I love a good story. But I have noticed that more and more we seem to be telling mostly “bad news” type stories. We talk about what’s wrong, what needs to be fixed, how bad things are, and stuff like that. Our focus seems to be on what isn’t working instead of the stuff that is working.
I suppose a little of that is human nature. Even if we get 90% positive feedback, we tend to obsess over the 10% that wasn’t so good, but I think in the church we need to fight that tendency and get back to telling good news stories. It is a tendency in the church. When I was a pastor, I don’t remember anyone calling or popping by with good news about what God was up to, and that trend continues in my new job. I hear about what isn’t working, but not much about what is going well.
Now, don’t hear me saying that we shouldn’t share appropriately when things are not going well. As the church, we are called to carry one another’s burdens, to lift each other up in prayer, and weep with those who weep. Sharing this news and letting people pray and encourage us is all very much a part of God’s plan for His family as they “one another”. So we need to continue to share the not so great stories.
I guess what I am asking us to do is to not neglect sharing what God is up to in us and around us (again in appropriate times and places). We need to have those stories before us as well because those stories do good things for us and for others. First of all, they remind us that God is at work. With so much bad news swirling around it is easy to forget that God is still active in our world, and we need that reminder. All of us need these reminders. Even if I am facing tough stuff (maybe especially when I am facing tough stuff), I need reminders that my all-powerful, all loving Heavenly Father is still at work in the world. It restores my hope.
Second, it gives glory to God. Sometimes I wonder if the reason we don’t tell our “good news what God is up to” stories is that we feel like we are bragging or showing off or something (I actually don’t wonder this, as I have heard people say it), but we aren’t. As long as we tell the story of what God is up to instead of making ourselves the hero we are giving Him the honour and glory He is due. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?
So what do we do with this mild admonishment to tell good stories? First, we recognize and respond to the challenge that exists. The challenge in this is that you and I will have to pay attention to what God is doing in and around us, and we aren’t always so good at that but as the church we need to get better at this. We are supposed to be people of Good News, people who bring hope, people who point towards the healing and wholeness and forgiveness that is available. So meet the challenge head on. Look for God at work. Notice Him. Help each other with this.
Then, do it. Carefully and prayerfully, start to live this out. If you lead, find ways to get these stories shared with people. If you have a story, share it. This is worship. This is pointing towards a real God who is really at work. This is what we are supposed to do. Who knows who will be encouraged? Who knows who will be moved closer to God? Who knows who will want to hear more and what doors will be opened? Tell your good stories. We need them.
One last thought. As you start to collect your “what God is up to stories”, keep the larger church in mind. If you have a great story of what God is doing as you and your church respond to God’s call to take responsibility for your communities, share it with us. My friend Alison would love to help you tell your story to the rest of your FM family, and drop me a note. I love a good story and look forward to hearing more.
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health
Free Methodist Church in Canada