Some of my fellow Christians keep telling me there is no eternal value in story – book, film, whatever. They ask, upon learning about Glass Road or SON, “But how is it a ministry to make stories?”
Let’s set aside the soul care offered to story creators through GR and SON for a second, and just focus on the creation of story itself.
Understanding lives in story, comprehension in character exploration. This is probably why Jesus almost always used story to teach Truth.
Our church bookstores don’t seem to follow that example consistently. Over the course of my career in stories, I have been advised numerous times by bookstore owners and publishers that there is no ministerial value in fiction. I can’t tell you how many church bookstores I’ve walked into whose shelves are lined with Maxwell, Moore, Stanley, Blackaby, and the like – and not one novel in sight.
I leave those stores feeling bereft. What of the people who need story?
What of those like Madeleine L’Engle…
“But I was frightened, and I tried to heal my fear with stories, stories which gave me courage, stories which affirmed that ultimately love is stronger than hate…And so story helped me learn to live. Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully.” (from WALKING ON WATER)
The wise and talented L’Engle continues… “It was a shock when one day in school one of the teachers accused me of ‘telling a story.’ She was not complimenting me on my fertile imagination. She was making the deadly accusation that I was telling a lie. If I learned anything from that teacher, it was that lie and story are incompatible. If it holds no truth, then it cannot truly be story. And so I knew that it was in story that I found flashes of that truth which makes us free.” Story holds Truth. It illustrates Truth. So, can we please stop comparing the ministerial value of callings, please? If we who are called do not build up the body of stories, what ideas will minister to those who do not respond to sermon? Ponder for just a moment whose stories will be told if we do not tell those given to us. Now to those of us who are called to the world of story creation and wondering if our work matters – please know:
When we abdicate our role as story creators in favor of a “higher” calling as defined by humans, we can only disappoint the Creator of Story who entrusted us with that element of His own being.