Our lives are lived in story. Narrative is the language of our lives.
Think for a moment about your best day. Maybe your wedding day, or your best holiday, or the day your kids were born – whatever day you remember with fondness.
Now tell me about it.
You will find yourself using a lot of expressive language and a lot of descriptors: “I was on the beach in Tahiti and it was warm and the sun was shining and the water was blue…” You will also find yourself using verbs and participles. That is, you will be speaking in action words and “…ing” words – “We went for a swim and we were surfing…”
None of us – at least no one I have ever met – will talk in disconnected, non-emotive terms. You don’t say “The subject exited the building to the left and made their way onto the silica shingle which was being washed by the tidal forces . They then entered the water and conducted themselves accordingly…” Nor do you speak in propositional statements. Maybe if you are a lawyer, but no one else. You don’t say: “There was water. There was sand. I have faith that there was swimming. I believe and affirm that there was a board and on it we stood.”
You see, we live in stories. Our lives are made up of narrative and of experiences which we express in the stories of our lives. I do a number of funerals each year and in each one there is an ‘eulogy’ – literally the last word – on a person’s life. Inevitably, there are a list of facts and figures – born, parents names, siblings, places and times – but after the first paragraph, it always evolves into story. “John was born on this date at this place to these parents. In his early life he enjoyed football and skeet shooting, which later developed into a passion for …”
Stories are the way we understand and communicate our lives. We see this in how Jesus speaks – we call them parables, but they are stories.
Why, then, do we insist on speaking about our faith in propositional or non-emotive terms. We talk about being a Christian as a series of statements of faith: “Do you believe in the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection? Cool, you’re a Christian.” And we try to evangelize by talking about the joy and fulfilment of being a disciple of Christ while sounding like the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
In sharing our faith, or ‘evangelism’ let’s be those who carry good news, and those who talk in ways that people can understand. Lets get rid of the propositional statements and talk like real people in the ways real people speak. What has Jesus done for you – tell me the story because that will make more impact than any propositional doctrinal statement you can recite to me.