There’s an old saying that information is power. This may be true, but wisdom comes from story. Storytelling is what transmutes information into wisdom.
To explain what I mean, let me tell you a story.
My first church in ministry, Ginghamsburg, had experienced rapid, exponential growth. In part due to the rapid growth we were experiencing, we had begun hosting church leadership conferences for thousands of pastors annually.
We were hosting over 2000 people a weekend in worship, and some of the people who’d been around since the church worshipped under 200 a weekend were upset. They said that we’d changed – we’d shifted our focus and were neglecting “the body”.
A few days later, our senior pastor, Michael Slaughter, read the story of B.W. Day, who’d founded the church in 1863. Day’s vision was that the little clapboard country church on the side of the dirt road in the hamlet of Ginghamsburg, Ohio, would someday become a “teaching church.”
For over a century, the congregation had been hosting young seminarians in their first assignments, giving young leaders a place serve while they learned the craft of ministry. To those who new of Day’s vision, this is how the church had understood it to be played out – through the role of clergy teacher to the larger body of Christ.
Slaughter told the story of Day’s vision in the next church leadership meeting. Then he flipped it on its head, and said now, we’re not just teaching one pastor at a time, we’re teaching thousands at a time. Mike re-interpreted Day’s vision on a bigger scale, and used it to establish a vision and direction for the future of Ginghamsburg.
What Mike did was tell his church’s origin story.
Everybody Has an Origin Story
There’s a story to the beginnings of any life, including people and churches.
In the comic book land of superheroes, the beginning story is called an origin story. For example, Superman’s origins come from the planet Krypton.
The screenwriter’s website TV Tropes describes how a superhero’s origin story works:
Every Superhero has an origin story, telling how they gained their powers and decided to fight crime. It may be revealed in their first appearance, or not until an eventual flashback, but once established it sets ground rules for which tropes are applicable to that particular superhero.TVtropes.com
The origin story sets the ground rules for the story of the life that follows.
I’ve also heard it said that the “DNA of an organization never changes.” Same thing. In other words, events happen in the course of the beginning of a life that set the course for that life.
Sometimes, though, the story’s caretakers lose sight of the origin. When this happens, the organization loses its way.
Clutter develops, in the messages and in the resources and programs and in the budget.
Rediscovering and knowing your origin story in a deep way provides a key to understanding your identity.
It’s way for you to remember what matters.
The rub is that it’s not always easy to see your own identity. It is like hearing your own dialect.