A good story badly told is a good story ruined.
We’ve all been there – endured an anecdote going on and on, or sat through a sermon where the clichéd illustration about dripping taps, or lifebelts, or a trip to Sainsbury’s is followed by a crunching gear change when you know the ‘moral’ is coming up, how it all ‘reminded me a bit of Jesus’.
Those are the moments when, if you’re anything like me, you roll your eyes heavenwards and wonder if this is the best we can do when trying to tell God’s story. On the other hand, a well told story is unforgettable – think of the speaker so captivating you felt you could listen to them for hours, or the testimony so profound it brought tears to your eyes. I’m thinking of first hand accounts, not just of staggering miracles, or unexpected conversions, but also the less newsworthy times – just as significant – when you know God was involved. Isn’t it amazing when someone manages to harness their creative power to point people towards God? I still remember some of the stories I heard nearly ten years go when, as a nonbeliever, I went on an Alpha course. It was those personal testimonies that began to persuade me there might be some truth in this God thing…
This month, we’re bringing you two master storytellers, from very different backgrounds. Eastenders screenwriter Tony Jordan has swapped the feuds and fighting of Albert Square for the scandal of a pregnant young girl in first century Palestine. His powerful four part take on the Nativity will be shown on the BBC in the run up to Christmas. He tells Martin Saunders (p18) what it was about the story which, to his surprise, brought him closer to God than ever before. Even if you haven’t yourself, you can probably name someone who has been inspired by Philip Yancey. The much loved author of What’s So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew returns to Christianity (p46) to tell us about his new book which poses an old question – What good is God?
What excites me most about Jordan and Yancey, is the way God has used their creative talents beyond what they thought possible, to draw people to himself. But if what God is doing now is so amazing, and the way he’s using communicators today so compelling, why are we so unexcited by the original telling of his story?
Krish Kandiah’s feature (p24) uncovers just how disengaged we have become with the Bible. Is this a result of laziness, bad habits, lack of confidence or just that the power of scripture has never been communicated to us that well? Kandiah asks some difficult questions about how we can re-engage with the Bible, and how we can let it become more than a bunch of irrelevant stories.
Some of the best stories are ones with unexpected twists. I never thought I’d be writing to you as Editor of Christianity, but then once upon a time I swore I’d never become a Christian at all. I feel privileged to be able to carry on the magazine’s story and I would really value your prayers as I try to hear what God has in store for us next. These twists are a good reminder that we are not in control – we can’t write our own life story. What we can do is learn to relinquish control, and instead seek to find our part in God’s great story as it unfolds.
So whatever you do, and whatever your story is, I pray that God will find some way to use you to draw others, and you, closer to him.
PS We have made a few changes to the design of the magazine, in particular to the reviews section, which I hope you like. Watch out for a full redesign coming soon…