My blogging mojo seems to have deserted me the past couple of weeks...
Anyway, I've been working hard on lots of other stuff, and figure that good material is worth using more than once. So I thought I'd post some things that I've been working on for the relaunch of Small Groups at Gateway in the autumn. First up is some thoughts on story. I've been thinking about this after picking some stuff up on my trip to Seattle, and from sitting with Andrew Wilson at the Newfrontiers Theology Forum talking about how the gospel is the answer to everyone's story.
Everyone loves a good story, and Small Groups should be a place where we can tell our stories, as part of the bigger story of what God has called us in to.
A love of stories is not something we have to learn – it is just hardwired into human nature. My children have loved stories from as soon as they were able to communicate in any meaningful way. At first the stories children love are very simple – ‘duck goes for a swim’ – but quickly the stories get longer and more complicated. Small children (very irritatingly!) love to hear the same story over and over again. As we get older we like to hear the same story strung out over a long time, as in a two hour movie or a novel, or even over a lifetime, as with Coronation Street! Some of the best moments in my family are when someone says, “Remember when…” Stories are important to us.
The big story
There are many types of story, and they can take many different forms, but they can all be pretty much boiled down to just two broad categories: The Love Story, and the Rescue Story. Everyone’s personal story will contain elements of these types of story, and everyone’s personal story can at some point be connected with the story of God:
The Love story: Boy meets girl. Fall in love. Live happily ever after.
This is probably the most common story of all, and is told and retold in countless forms from ‘high culture’ (Romeo & Juliet) to ‘folk culture’ (Snow White) to ‘pop culture’ (Sleepless in Seattle).
Most people’s stories will contain a lot of this story, because it is the story of relationships. Everyone has a story to tell of love fulfilled, broken or unrequited. This is the story that fills acres of newspaper print and celebrity magazines. It is the story other people tell us whenever we sit down together and say, “Tell me about yourself…”
The love story is also the story of the Bible because God’s story is about him winning for himself a bride, the love of his life, who he will lavish his love on forever. From Genesis to Revelation the story is all about a God of love and the consequences of that love. Out of the overflow of his love God created the universe and people to fill it. Out of love God pursues relationship with these people, even when they sin and mess everything up. Out of love God chooses a people for himself – Israel. Out of love God remains faithful to Israel, even when she divorces him. Out of love God comes to the earth in Jesus Christ to win his bride back for himself. The climax of the whole story is a wedding feast when Jesus and his Bride are at last brought together in the made new heavens and earth.
Of all the types of story there are, this is really the one big story, because every other story is really in some way about our search for love.
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