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  • Writer's pictureLES HENSON

An Alternative Story

Les Henson

The crucial question that we must grapple with concerning the church, in this generation, is what is shaping our identity as the people of God? Or to put it another way, who are we, and whom do we serve? If the biblical story does not shape our identity, then it will be formed by alternative stories. In other words, if the biblical story is not the story we live by then by default, its place will be taken by other stories, our cultural stories. We cannot serve two masters. Either our lives, as the people of God, are forged by the biblical story. Or they are shaped by the cultural stories that surround us, which control and inform our culture.

Roger E. Olson, affirms our need to be shaped by the biblical story, when he writes, “The Heidelberg Catechism rightly says, for all Christians who allow the Bible to absorb the world for them – who see reality through the biblical story – that the purpose of life is to glorify God – a personal being who is ultimate over us and everything else – and enjoy him forever. This should be clear to all Christians, but many Christians have been influenced to think otherwise even about the Bible because of dabbling in movements such as the New Age Movement or the Gospel of Health and Wealth or even naturalistic humanism.” I would go even further and suggest that unless our worldview is shaped and informed by the Biblical story, then it will be shaped by other stories either explicitly or implicitly. Thus, we must return again and again to the scriptures asking: Who are we as the people of God? What is our role in the biblical story? What is our vocation as the people of God? And what does it mean to live and serve faithfully in a hostile world?

Certainly, Ivan Illich is correct when he writes, “Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths [of the Enlightenment] and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past into a coherent whole. One that even shines light into the future so that we can take the next step . . . if you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story.” The problem is that since the Enlightenment, which the church inadvertently bought into uncritically, we have largely forgotten how to tell the story from Genesis to Revelation. Perhaps we need to take a look at the sermons in the book of Acts to be reminded of how the early church told the story of the crucified resurrected Messiah (See Peters sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:14-36 and Acts 3 when he healed the blind man; Stephen’s defence in Acts 7; Peters sermon in the house of Cornelius in Acts 10:34-43; Paul in Antioch in Antioch Acts 13: 14-43, at Lystra in Acts 14:8-18, and in Athens in Acts 17:16-34; and so on. Keep in mind these are only sermon outlines the sermons themselves were much longer. You can read some of these in two or three minutes, you can’t tell me Peter, Stephen or Paul, only preach for that length of time). So, we need to move away from the truncated version that is too often told today of getting your ticket to heaven, and tell the whole story in meaningful and creative ways.

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