Monday, May 14, 2007

Viewing the church as story, rather than structure

In their book, Seeking a Lasting City: The Church's Journey in the Story of God, authors Foster, Harris, and Love propose that we look at the church in narrative, rather than structural terms.

They say that the advantages of this perspective of the church are:

1. It reflects the truth of our experience. We all live our lives as stories.

2. It prevents us from overly identifying with external characteristics. We certainly have had a problem with this. A faithful church has been defined as to whether or not it had the right organization and structure, not how much it loved, proclaimed the good news, or ministered to the poor and the like.

3. It reminds us of the importance of the moment. Each part of the story is significant.

4. It points us to the unfolding part of the story--that God is working but still has much he will do ("now" and "not yet").

5. It shows that the church is not an end in itself. We are part of God's mission, the vehicle for much of his mission, but not the whole enchilada.

6. It reminds us that the church must include both continuity and change.

7. It replaces a defensive mentality with a sense of adventure and engagement.

These are good points, and it seems to me, a better self-understanding than that of the "structurally right" church.

Which of these points do you like?


John said...

James, the book sounds interesting - I'll have to order it soon.

Based on the title and your summary, it sounds like a Biblical approach to church that might overcome many of the objections Gen X, Y, and even some of us disillusioned Boomers have to organized religion. What do you think the odds are of being able to teach the principles outlined in the book in a Bible class at church?


James said...


The book has a study guide in the back, and it could be used for a Bible class.

It is a decent book, I would say, but not the best I've ever read. I'll let you borrow it. But it does address issues related to our fellowship and provides a narrative alternative understanding of the church.

Yes, this approach should cut across generations.