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The Send Network Church Planting Blog

Finding Our Place in the Story

April 23, 2014 by Brandon Shields
If the epic story of redemption is true, then inevitably it reframes the individual narratives of those who find themselves caught up in what C.S. Lewis called the “true myth.” But how do we go about pursuing our place in the story of God?
We must help our people understand the cultural narratives that have shaped their hopes, dreams, fears, idols and desires.
According to theologian John Frame, all theology can be applied by locating the intersection of three factors or “perspectives”: the normative (biblical), situational (contextual) and existential (personal). In other words, we must take the unchanging, sacred words of God (normative) and seek to faithfully and fruitfully apply them to their particular historical situation (time, place, social context, vocation, culture) in light of the way God has uniquely wired them (existential). We must help our people understand the cultural narratives that have shaped their hopes, dreams, fears, idols and desires, and then retell the biblical narrative in such a way that they can imagine what it would look like for Jesus to fulfill the deepest aspirations of their heart. Only when they are captivated by the real Jesus who meets them in the grittiness of real time-space history can our people be free to pursue holistic renewal in every sphere of their lives.

A Three-fold Paradigm

Revelation. Who is God and what story is he telling about his world? Identity. Who am I in light of God’s story and with God’s people? Location. Where am I and what is the story God is writing right here and right now? Let’s look briefly at each of these dynamics.

Revelation: Who is God?

In order to make sense of our world, we have to lift people’s vision from the bondage of their own personal or cultural stories to behold the beauty of the Author of all ultimate stories. In Scripture we see God not as a malevolent tyrant seeking to repress otherwise autonomous human beings, but rather as an infinitely resourceful and benevolent Father who designed the universe as a place for cosmic flourishing. This is the world our Father created, and this is the world He will one day restore for His glory and our joy. Interestingly, it is the Father’s perfect love for the flourishing of His creation that leads Him to actively oppose and one day bring into final judgment the sin, injustice, oppression, racism and sickness that plagues His image-bearers.

Identity: Who am I?

Humans were designed to flourish in the security of a covenant relationship with their Father. When we choose to reject that story out of fear or pride, we suffer the consequences of spiritual, social and psychological alienation.
In order to make sense of our world, we have to lift people’s vision from the bondage of their own personal or cultural stories to behold the beauty of the Author of all ultimate stories.
No matter their view of sin, most people live with a very deep sense of implacable shame, or the feeling of unworthiness that drives people to build their significance through familial, vocational, political, financial or tribal efforts. However noble, these attempts at establishing a righteousness of their own fail miserably, often leading people to despair or indifference. The gospel brings a different story altogether. In the gospel, Christ gives us His righteousness, and declares our identity to firmly rooted in our union with Him. The gospel trades our shame for unconditional acceptance in spades, which ultimately frees us to gradually experience a humble confidence in our relationships with others. Our Core Gospel Identities Disciples. Our desires for worship are now fixed on God, and we are set free from the twin tyrannies of religion (fear) and irreligion (pride) to a life of joy. Family. God places us in a new family and begins to weave us back together with others who are very different than us and yet very much like us in that they have been saved through grace by faith in Jesus Christ. Missionaries. God changes us in order to send us back into the world as Spirit-empowered, life-giving communities that reflect the new realities of the kingdom in a dark world.

Location: Where am I?

God rescues us in particular cultural moments, places and bodies. God’s story must be embodied by God’s people as we join Him in renewing the world we inhabit. Practically, this means we must deeply reflect on the story of Creation-Rebellion-Jesus-Restoration in order to work out the implications for our vocation, recreation, location (neighborhoods, relationships, etc) and acts of restoration (Gospel proclamation and demonstration). This keeps Christianity from becoming overly spiritualized or idealistic, and leads us to a realistic and responsible cultural engagement that is “right here, right now, with who we are and what we have.”