This past March I attended Exponential East 2015, a church planting conference held in Florida, as an exhibitor with the Antioch School. When I am at these sorts of conferences, I always take time to survey the booths for Christian publishers, to take the pulse of the contemporary Christianity.
This was striking to me, because in my own church, we are currently wrapping a series of messages on the story of God, out of which will be developed a bible study tool intended to establish believers in that story. The story, it would seem, is everywhere.
For our purposes, when we refer to “The Story,” we mean the grand, overarching narrative of the whole Bible. The Story is the narrative of all that God has accomplished in the world, all that he continues to accomplish today, and all that he will yet accomplish in the future.God's story, it would seem, is everywhere. #God #Jesus Click To Tweet
In our church context, we are convinced that establishing believers in this story is crucial for their development in the faith.
I have been impacted by my own work to understand God’s story, not only in our church’s recent study, but also in my work for my Masters of Theology. The major change that it has made in my thinking is this:
I am not the lead actor in the drama of life. Indeed, no one is!
I think that many, many people look at life as the Story of Themselves, the narrative in which they are the principle player. When we look at life like this, we are the star of the show, occupying center stage, under the spotlight.
We are encouraged in this view by our culture’s solipsistic narcissism, told that we can be anything we want, and do anything we want.
Is it any wonder, then, that Christians take an individualistic approach to their faith?
Is it any wonder that churches cater to this individualistic worldview, competing with one another to put on the glitziest, fanciest show they can?
After all, the better the show, the better to attract people for whom their faith is, at the end of the day, mostly about themselves. After all, isn’t Christianity about how God sent Jesus to save me from my sins so I can go to heaven?
In a word: no.
The story of God is about far more than how I, as an individual, get saved.
The story of God is about how God redeems and restores his creation, a creation that although it was once very good, has been hopelessly degraded by sin.#God is about much more than my own personal, individual #redemption. Click To Tweet
And of course, this restoration of his creation includes the restoration of humanity to God through Jesus, which includes the saving of individuals like you and me. And while it is true—gloriously so!—that I have been redeemed from my sins, God is about much more than my own personal, individual redemption.
As churches—and especially if we are leaders of churches—we need to learn to think about our common faith not in terms of what God has done for us as individuals, but in terms of the total work that God is accomplishing.
I am not the lead character in the drama of my life. Nor are you. Nor are any of us. Rather, God is the lead character in the drama of eternity.
Taking this perspective begins to answer what has become a difficult question for many Christians: “So I’m saved—now what?”
If Christianity is about how God saves me, this question is difficult because once I’m saved, the main point of Christianity has been accomplished.
Punch the clock every morning until Jesus returns or takes me home?
Wait to die so I can finally go to heaven?
But when we take the view that God is the lead character in the drama of eternity, we realize that our redemption is not an end unto itself, but a means to some other end. When we understand the story of all that God has, and is, and will accomplish, our job is to situate ourselves in the story and contribute to it.
When we take this God-centric view, we begin to align ourselves with God and his purposes in the world. We no longer have the pressure of being the lead character.
Instead, we realize that we have, at best, a bit part to play in God’s grand purposes in the universe. And all of the sudden, our lives make sense.
All of the sudden the mission of our churches becomes clearer.
Our Role: The Church
The mission of our churches become clearer because taking the view of God as the lead character in the drama of the universe gives us an organizing principle.
If God’s intention in this moment in history is the establishment and expansion of his church, then our work—whatever it might be—finds its meaning relative to the way it contributes to that.
This means that our money, our time, our relationships; our efforts, our jobs, and our talents are put to their best and highest use insofar as they contribute to that purpose.
If God is the lead character, then our churches, our families, and our individual lives must align themselves behind his purposes. When we do this, we find that God has commissioned his church to bear witness, in word and in deed, to all that he has, is, and will accomplish.
Indeed, when we are led into the awareness that God is the lead character in the drama of eternity, we find that God is not only doing a work, but that we, as churches, families, and individuals, have a share in that work.
I can think of nothing more worthwhile around which to direct my life and its energies.