Weak and Safe Stories

The power of stories to shape our lives is known but seldom attended to until we are off the rails and wonder how we got that way. Who wrote the story that we live? Sometimes I wonder just how complicated are those basic narratives or whether the plot lines actually sprout from dead simple mottos – don’t upset your mother; do what good boys do (and what God approves) and do it well. If I believed in fate – that everything in life is already determined – then there would be little point to the ongoing struggle to identify the stories (and their authors) that I live. Currently I’m wondering where my ambivalence towards success and prosperity comes from – family or church?

Not only individuals tell themselves stories. Congregations and institutions do as well.

Gil Rendle provides a helpful insight into the stories most congregations tell themselves.

One of the things I know about congregations is that they routinely tell very weak and safe stories about themselves, because if you tell kind of a weak, safe story about yourself, you don’t have to perform a whole lot. But if you tell a bold story about yourself, you have to risk. And so we’ve got a lot of congregations that have learned how to tell very weak stories.

Weak and safe – not exactly the characteristics I would choose for my own story much less for a company of fellow travelers on the Christian way. Perhaps that’s another reason people who are spiritual (but not religious) find little attraction in many current forms of church.


Our God, we have ears but often we do not listen that well. We have our excuses and our reasons and you have heard our schtick before; and we have heard it and part of it grows weary even of our own versions of our story. So we ask for something big. We ask that we might have an open heart and enough courage to hear and tell a different story of who we are and who we might be, a story enlarged and deepened by brushing up against the story you create. Most times we are not sure we’re up to it – and we have our reasons – but, in the best part of our spirit, we sense that maybe there might be more for us and for all that you love.  Continue that which you do – supporting us while luring us towards a new future. Amen.

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