I’ve said in this space many times that information is a fairly weak instigator for change. We don’t change much, generally speaking, just because we receive new information. We tend to absorb new information into the frameworks we already have in place. And these frameworks are related to stories we’ve learned to tell about ourselves and our world.
So, deep-down-big-change requires at least two things. First, significant change requires new experiences that disrupt business as usual. Second, new narratives have to be told that take the disruption as the starting place for a new account of things. And this is where we are failing.
I think we have a lot of experimenting going on. Congregations are trying new things all over the place. But the potential these experiments hold for deep culture change is largely dissipated because we lack sufficient reflection that would ultimately lead to story-telling. We tend to reflect on new experiences around one question: did this work? To which I want to ask, work according to what framework? In other words, the question “did it work” tends to be answered from our current frameworks of understanding, thus robbing us of the ability to provide a new account of things. Reflection around different questions–my favorites are “what are we learning” and “what surprised us”–lead to new narratives.
But I am convinced that we are also in need of story-tellers. Not everyone can make narrative sense out of the confusion of new experiences. So, when we find story-tellers with this capacity, we have to encourage them.
So, with regard to missional innovation, the moment we are in is not an information moment. While gains can still be made by connecting the mission of God to Trinitarian theology or good eschatology, the biggest catalyst for transformation will be the sharing of stories. And I’ve been trying to encourage the story-tellers. And I’ve found a few good ones. I’ve been reading Bruce Logue’s reflections for awhile now. Bruce is launched into a deep and meaningful learning curve. He’s re-learning ministry in the new, trying, and exciting environment of a new kind of Christian community. You can find his stories here.
If you have stories, and I’m also very interested in stories within existing congregations, let me know where you’re telling them. We need to hear them. Tell a story, change the world.