As part of the Vitality Pathway process, we had a Biblical Story workshop. A Vitality Team member and FirstCov member, Chris Mueller, facilitated this special time in prayer and God's Word. He reports on this powerful time below.
I loved Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story. He would share a story about a famous person (using a pseudonym) then reveal the true identity of the person at the end. They were engrossing and fascinating. Some stories like Bach and Churchill are memorable, and decades later I still retell them.
The great thing about stories is that they are easy to remember. It is why Jesus used parables. Even if reciting scripture is not your strong suit, you know Bible stories that you can tell others.
As part of our Vitality process, one of the steps is to find a Biblical story of our current situation as a church. From an open invite to the whole church, a group of 25 signed up and got together on June 17 to find that story. It was a daunting task: How do we find one story inside 66 books of the Bible that represents First Covenant today? There are many stories that could fit, and many possible outcomes.
Our work was a mixture of individual reflection, small group discussion and large group discussion. At one point, Pastor Brian commented to me, “I wondered how we would ever find one story with so many people in such a short amount of time.” I admitted a similar curiosity as well. What happened over the three hours is only the kind of power the Holy Spirit can reveal.
We initially identified more than a dozen stories as possibilities. Eventually the list was narrowed through discernment of themes we felt were important: mission, bearing fruit, following God, obeying God, pruning to foster new growth, going into new territory, stability, and being built on a solid foundation.
Through discussion and prayer, we reached the consensus that the story of Joshua 1:1-11 best fits our current situation. The Israelites were on the banks of the Jordan River about to cross into the Promised Land. There are elements that are not relevant like the recent death of a great leader. But after 40 years of wandering in the desert, they are set to benefit from God’s promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you (v. 5).” Three times in 11 verses God told them to be strong and courageous. The second time He added the emphasis “very courageous.”
Joshua 1 is a snapshot of now even though there are many stories that fit. I urge you to take the time not only to read the story, but study it as well.
Note: At a recent Vitality Team meeting, we discovered that God has tied this in even more deeply. It was noted that as one of our sermons leading to our transition to the new facility in September 2014 was Joshua 1. God weaves the roots of His work over time and in our whole church story!
We have the benefit of knowing how the story of Israel turns out. Over the next millennium, they would fall into and out of favor with God. They would be exiled and return to the land promised to Abraham. Eventually, Jesus came to fulfill all the promises.
How will our story be told? We do not know. While many stories could fit our current season as a church, the lesson of being strong and courageous, that God will never forsake us, and that we must follow His leading are inescapable.
The Covenant Church suggests reviewing the Biblical story every couple of years. What will our story be in two years? God knows, and may we follow His lead and may His will be revealed.