Story. Sweet’s Perspective [The Importance of Story]

➡ Average Reading Time: 3 minutes

God's <abbr>EPIC</abbr> AdventureThe lead mentor of the Leadership in Emerging Culture Doctor of Ministry (now titled: Semiotics, Church & Culture) program at George Fox University when I attended was Dr. Leonard Sweet. As the seismic writer of SoulTsunami he says that “every kid in the world knows these four words: …”Tell Me A Story.”[ref]Leonard I. Sweet, SoulTsunami. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 423.[/ref]

He believes that story came to be a negative word in the modern world. To be a “storyteller” was one of the worst things you could call a person, but in the postmodern world, storytellers hold the future in their hands, especially those who use all the “basic media forms: print, software, audio, and video.”[ref]Sweet, SoulTsunami. 424.[/ref] He suggests that the life of Jesus was neither essay, doctrine, nor sermon, but was “a story.”[ref]Sweet, SoulTsunami. 425.[/ref]. For Sweet the “Christian message is not a timeless set of moral principles or a code of metaphysics. The Christian message is a story…. [ref]Sweet, SoulTsunami 425.[/ref] His favorite definition for preachers is “story doctors” where he says:

People come to worship with problem stories, with painful stories, with jostling narratives and “narrative dysfunctions,” a condition and process “by which we lose track of the story ourselves, the story that tells us who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act.” Preachers help heal people’s narrative dysfunction and help them live out of new, whole stories. Bad stories hurt and impair; good stories heal and help.

In AQUAchurch he speaks about two kinds of stories: “rut stories” and “river stories.” A “rut story” limits us and locks us in place by keeping us stuck in “old tracks and trajectories.” On the other hand, a “river story” moves us forward. These stories “add life-giving software (accumulated memories and learning) to the brain’s hardware (billions of neurons). He believes that the greatest “river story” is the story of Jesus.[ref]Leonard I. Sweet, AQUAchurch. (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 1999), 57. These images come from Donna Markova’s No Enemies Within (Emeryville, CA: Publisher Groups West, 1994) as quoted in Robert Hargrove, Mastering the Art of Creative Collaboration (New York: BusinessWeek Books, 1998), 65).[/ref]

He further suggests that we do not discover “the Way, the Truth and the Life by memorizing verses and mastering facts.”[ref]Leonard I. Sweet, AQUAchurch. (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 1999), 59.[/ref]

In Summoned to Lead,[ref]Leonard Sweet. Summoned to Lead 133.[/ref] Sweet says, “Telling stories” used to be a euphemism for lying. No more. Story is crucial in communication. He quotes John Raymond as distinguishing between “tradition-stories, map-stories, and vision-stories.”

Sweet suggests that we need all of these kinds of stories [ref]Leonard Sweet. Summoned to Lead 134.[/ref] to and I would suggest that all these kinds of stories may define the overarching Story of Scripture.

Finally, in Out of the Question…Into the Mystery, another book read by the LEC2 cohort I attended, Sweet suggested (as we have suggested above) that we should:

  1. Memorize and live out its stories.
  2. Fall in love with a new passage every day.
  3. Take it to bed with you.
  4. Talk to it and hear it talk to you as you wrestle with the text.
  5. Become a fifth gospel, a third testament.[ref]Leonard Sweet. Out of the Question…Into the Mystery: Getting Lost in the GodLife Relationship. 77.[/ref]

He suggests that the Story of God is not yet finished that God has framed, “but that we are invited to have a hand in coloring.”[ref]Leonard Sweet. Out of the Question…Into the Mystery: Getting Lost in the GodLife Relationship. 78.[/ref]

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Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)