I’ve been reading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years lately, mostly because I’d heard about a million times how great it is. And it has lived up to billing, honestly. It’s brilliant. “Fantastic,” as my friend Tad would say. Tad was at least half of those million recommendations.
The book itself is about story. Or telling a great story with our lives. And it’s full of great examples of people doing just that. These are not people who are doing world-changing things, either. I always find those mildly deflating. It’s difficult when you hold your own life up against someone who sold their house, moved to Africa, and started making shoes for their 57 adopted children. I love those people and their stories…it’s just that they are so other-worldly that it can be hard to relate when I’m trying to make sure the bills get paid and my kids make it to the school bus. So it’s refreshing when an author–especially a Christian author–gives simple examples of people living a great story in their neighborhood or at their workplace. That I can relate to.
One of those stories is about a family who started a New Year’s Day tradition. One of the kids said they were bored. Boredom doesn’t make a great story, so the dad decided it was time to do something that would at least make for an interesting story. So they started a parade. On New Year’s Day. Just their family and anyone else in the neighborhood who wanted to participate. The only rule: anyone can participate, but no one can just watch. After all, he surmised, “it’s more fun to be in a parade than to watch one.” So everyone gets in on the fun. And it’s been going on for a decade or more now, people travelling back to the neighborhood after having moved away, just to get in a crazy costume and march down the street together.
But nobody comes just to watch. They’re all too busy having fun to sit on the sidelines.
Honestly–and you can probably see where this is going–I really believe the church is meant to be the same way. Great stories are only told when we actually jump in and start marching. It doesn’t happen from the couch, and it doesn’t happen when we just watch. It takes joining in the parade.
That’s what I think Paul was getting at when he said this:
“God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful…!”
1 Corinthians 12:4-9 (The Message)
Bob’s parade is one of those simple things that gets better and better because people keep getting invited in to the story. Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. Miller’s assertion is that this is what a good storyteller does. He doesn’t complain about the existing story or get sidetracked by boredom. He just tells something different, something better. And then he invites other people into the new story he is telling, giving them a better story, too.
This is what I want to be about. I want to tell a better story. I want to invite my kids into it. I want to invite my friends and the people I meet to come along for the fun.
And I want to lead the kind of church that does the same.
This is ultimately what Jesus did: he engaged people and invited them into a better story. Into the best story. That’s really the message of the Gospel, that the Master Storyteller has a much better story for our lives, one that we’ve either forgotten or opted out of. And the only rule is: anybody can get in on the story, but sitting on the sideline and watching is not allowed. There’s too much life and fun and joy to be had when we get in on it!
I think we are finding that at Restoration. We just had our first baptism Sunday, and the stories are hopefully going to just keep coming! From Samaritan’s Inn to our Mission Groups, from Young Life to Roanoke College mentoring–our lives our telling a better story because this church exists. And I just can’t help but wonder: what is the rest of the story that God is going to tell through our church? Where will this parade go, and just how many more people can we get in on the fun?!?
Hopefully, you’re asking that question too. Because nobody is allowed to just watch.