17 March 2007

The work of pastors is . . .

“The work of pastors and other leaders is this: bringing a people together around texts (their own stories, biblical stories, the stories of the church’s context) so the congregation can become more available to the narrative of God’s reign. Every church needs continual conversion; a helpful way to understand conversion is to see it as adopting a different narrative. We are given life narratives by society (such as hard work or careerism, generosity or materialism), by our families (maybe loyalty and love, maybe dysfunction and disintegration), and by our cultures (including values we embody concerning language, place, neighbours and wisdom). We are also formed by the stories of our local setting (the narratives of fortune or misfortune, of conflicts or coalitions). We “in-habit” these stories – literally forming habits, practices, and ways of perceiving the world.

Every church needs continual conversion; a helpful way to understand conversion is to see it as adopting a different narrative.


Alongside these narratives (societal, cultural, local, personal), Christian adopt (and are adopted into) the Jesus story as transmitted in numerous traditions, embodied in congregations, and quicken by the Holy Spirit. But – as was already true during the writing of the New Testament—the congregational narratives get separated from the gospel. Those who lead churches must then help a people rediscover the stories that most likely indicate God’s presence and actions. When a church assumes stories without retelling and reentering them, there is little energy to power congregational life and there are no resources for raising a new generation or welcoming neighbours. When cultural or societal stories overshadow stories of God’s initiatives and a church’s narratives of faithfulness and fruitfulness, identity is at risk and priorities skewed. When a church becomes encumbered with practices and programs that have been separated from their meanings, then narratives must be reclaimed and futures must be reimagined so that congregational life can be reshaped.”
-- Mark Lau Branson, Memories, Hopes, and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change, pg. 54-55.

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