Whose Story?

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There is great power in story.

In fact, as we’ve often said, your story is one thing that can never be taken from you. And it’s one of the most powerful gifts you have. At the same time,

How we tell our story matters.

How we understand our story matters.

How others would tell and understand our story matters.

Last week, Tim discussed the importance of our posture in this work of placemaking—that yes, the theological understanding of what it means to love our neighbor is important; but equally important (actually, far more important) is how we love our neighbors in word and deed, in ways big and small.

An interesting observation I’ve made over the last few years is how rarely churches mention their neighbors as they tell their story. We’ll ask questions about their church’s story and hear interesting accounts of this or that pastor or ministry, of attendance growth and decline, and of the history of the building itself.

Yet until we explicitly ask how the church has engaged its surrounding neighborhood, rarely are their neighbors mentioned. Any intersection between the church’s story and the neighborhood’s story is an afterthought, at best.

In fact, while some churches can recall positive past and present interactions with their surrounding community once prompted, many still aren’t able to articulate much beyond a vague statement along the lines of “we have a positive relationship with our community” and, perhaps, a story or two regarding a community outreach ministry that existed decades ago.

Now, I don’t share any of this to shame the church. Rather, this is a recognition that somewhere along the line we came to view our story inside the walls of the church as completely separate from the broader story of what God is doing in our neighborhoods. Yet these stories are deeply interwoven, whether we realize it or not.

How we tell and understand our shared story matters.

One of my favorite aspects of our work is shifting that paradigm with churches—encouraging them to discover threads of past intersection with their neighbors that offer a source for future re-engagement, imaginatively asking themselves how they might write their story moving forward in such a way that it is more interwoven with the community’s story.

So that all might flourish.

In this together,