What’s your story pt. 1: How to share the good news of the Gospel
By Doug Hon 09/02/2021
The question “What’s your story?” is commonly used to invite someone to open up about the experiences, ideas and circumstances that have shaped them. Of course all of our individual stories are set in the context of a larger cultural story. Sociologists often call this a meta-narrative. Meta-narratives serve as the bigger stories into which our individual stories are contextualized. We are not always as aware of our meta-narratives as we are our personal stories. Nearly all meta-narratives assume that they are correct in the way they interpret reality. Most common in our day is the narrative/story that there is no single comprehensive meta-narrative that is the true story for every human. Ironically, this is considered to be the one true story for everyone.
Against this backdrop, the Gospel of Christ sets itself up as the one true story for all people at all times, the one true meta-narrative. Leslie Newbigin, the famed British bishop to South India, argued that every individual story is shaped by some larger story. “The way we understand human life”, he said, “depends on what conception we have of the human story. What is the real story of which my life story is a part?” In other words, our individual stories, consciously or subconsciously, are shaped by what we believe is the big story. This big story is about how the universe came to be, how the universe works, what the universe will become. Ultimately, it is about how we interpret our lives in light of the big picture.
This makes the claims of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ more than just religious ideas. For if we claim that the Gospel is the one true story for all people of all times, then we make an immense claim with deep implications. Namely, that all other news is in some way lacking. This assertion creates challenges: we risk being called exclusive, narrow, naive or worse. In an effort to avoid these accusations, some have tried to create hybrid stories blending what seems to be the most reasonable aspects of multiple meta-narratives. This has generally not worked well because the good news of the Gospel is so unique.
So how do we then live? How do we tell our story, the Gospel, to a skeptical and sometimes angry world without compromise? Let me suggest just three of many ways:
1. Become fluent in what the good news really says. Much to the offense of many, I’m not a huge “Lord of The Rings” fan. I have never actually watched any of the movie (or read the books) all the way through. But, I am a big fan of the special effects. I can tell you about the battle that brought down the evil tower with the eye on top. I don’t remember what movie it was a part of, or any of the dialogue - please forgive me. I admit that I’m a mere special effects fan. I watch it for the cool scenes. Unfortunately, I find that many believers, who regularly attend church, are special effects fans when it comes to the Gospel. They don’t know how the episodes fit together, or any of the dialogue, they just know the special effects. Yes, the drama of scripture in its entirety is long but it’s worth the read.
2. Understand that the Gospel is most clearly worked out in community, it is both personal and communal. If we are telling people that the good news is the one true story for all people at all times, then the story needs to have a lot of characters. When we invite people to follow Christ, we are also inviting them to join a lot of other folks on the same path. Being a follower of Christ is not an abstract individual idea. To follow Christ is to live an entirely new life in the context of a good news community.
3. Remember that in the end our news is GOOD NEWS. It’s good news of great joy for all people. A savior has come - Immanuel, God is with us!