Story, Signs and Sacred Rhythms: Introduction

I am working my way through Chris Folmsbee’s Story, Signs and Sacred Rhythms: A Narrative Approach to YouthMinistry, and decided that for me to retain the most that I can, I should blog through my thoughts as I read. Below you will find my thoughts on the first segment of the book, in which Chris lays the groundwork for what the purpose of the book is. If you have read the book, please feel free to add your own thoughts, if you haven’t read it, don’t use this as a reason to skip over it. I am merely summarizing my response to Chris’ thoughts.

This introductory section is full of a lot of background information. Chris gives a primer on postmodernity, the mission of God, the idea of what it means for something to be narrative, what narrative theology is, and more. Some of it felt familiar, as I am currently immersed in a lot of it, and have been particularly fascinated with (and frustrated by) postmodernity since my days at Geneva College. While familiar, the information is solid, especially the idea that postmodern teens will refuse absolute truth and even the idea that a narrative someone else wrote drives their life… unless you are willing to leave it open for discussion and let them interact with it. Chris also hit the nail on the head that the mission of God is built around restoring the world – all of it – back to perfection in Himself. This includes all brokenness in our world, and it is a mission that we are to partner with Him in doing, not bragging that we did it, but humbly thanking God for the opportunity to be used by Him in the work of restoration.

There is a big push nowadays to be socially relevant, and to do justice well. While these are good, a lot of the time ministries can find themselves doing these things apart from the mission of God, trying to be relevant for the sake of being relevant, or doing good just because they see something that needs done. Not that these are bad things, but if we do them without living out the narrative of God’s story, we give our teens nothing solid to build on once they have left our ministry. If we are not modeling what we are teaching them, then we are not really teaching them anything at all, because they will not follow something we do not do ourselves. We cannot build a ministry off of one verse or one passage of Scripture because we cannot understand God apart from the whole story. Seeing what He has done and how He has dealt with humanity over the course of history allows us to see a more complete picture of Him. I really latched onto this idea, as the ideas of theme verses and life verses – while not being a bad idea necessarily – have long irked me that people take one verse to live by, when there is so much more to grow in.

Overall, the opening section has excited me for the rest of the book. Chris states that this is a model, an approach to doing ministry effectively. I am very interested in seeing what sorts of practical application he will be giving us before the book is done. As I sign off on this segment, here are a few quotes that really stuck out to me:

  • “It’s out of our theology that we ultimately end up living the way we do” (pg 28)
  • “This leaves a generation of students who are being called to live like Jesus wanting to know why and how. Frankly, if our students don’t understand why and how, then we really haven’t helped them.” (pg 30)
  • “Propositions are found throughout the Bible. However, it’s sloppy theology to examine propositions without first finding their meaning within the Story itself.” (pg 34)
  • “The mission of God is an adventure, no doubt.” (pg 19)