Having been a professional pastor for over 14 years, I’m very familiar with creating a church’s “Statement of Faith.” This is that “special” document that outlines a church’s doctrine. It usually outlines each doctrine in a bullet-point format, each point followed by explanation and Bible verses.
Anyone who has visited this blog knows my view on how important God’s Story is to giving our doctrines, theology and practices meaning and trajectory. Truth is an essential core component to Christianity. But God has chosen to make known his Truth through narrative.
A good example is Jesus himself. His teachings and ministry are anchored in both the grand sweeping narrative of God as well as the many smaller stories within Israel’s story. One cannot understand Jesus or what he was accomplishing without understanding the Story that shaped his worldview. He wasn’t a Gnostic that came to communicate special knowledge about a Reality disconnected from this world. The Reality of God’s kingdom that Jesus embodied, demonstrated and announced was entirely anchored in a Story. It was a Story that began with the creation of this good world as it is filled with God’s life, then tragically sags under the burden of brokenness and distortion, and ultimately gazes with longing toward a future time when God, through Israel, would come to judge and restore creation forward toward his God-intended destiny.
Extracted from that Story, Jesus’ words and ministry, especially his death and resurrection, are stripped and bleached of so much richness and vitality.
This is why I was so thrilled when I visited the website of Mars Hill Church in MIchigan. I have enjoyed Rob Bell’s teaching in the past. He’s one of the “popular” pastor/teachers that can articulate the works of theologians like N.T. Wright and others in such a simple, ground-level way.
What thrilled me was that instead of a Statement of Faith, Mars Hill has developed a “Narrative Theology Statement.” It is a hybrid of story and doctrine. Rather than presenting doctrinal points as abstract bullet-points supported by proof-texting, the Narrative Theology Statement embeds statements of belief within God’s Story.
And as you browse the other pages on the Mars Hill website, you can view firsthand how God’s Story provides the appropriate meaning and trajectory for that church’s theology, values and practices. For example check out the values that emerge from immersing themselves in God’s Story.
It’s a great start and I hope other faith-communities follow their example.