Viral Narratives: Their Potential for Redemptive Influence

Urgency is best caught if sensed and then internalized, rather than simply described with clinical detachment. This process flows out of shared narratives expressed through the transmission of stories throughout the community. The process becomes viral when the varied stories intersect in meaning and implication at a heart level. People cannot help but hear the stories of others which resonate with them and then, in turn, express the overflow of their stories as well as interpretive correlations. Urgency coalesces in a narrative environment in which the community hears and shares stories with common interpretive threads. Separate circumstances, anecdotes, statements, and impressions have the potential of being refined into a larger ethos. All they need is the catalyst of a well placed story which sets in motion its subsequent responses. From a Christian point of view, this does not happen by chance. It is the process of God ordained community, where people love each other and listen, sharing their hearts as the church, discerning together the purposes of God in light of Scripture with a sense of urgency and passion.

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Necessary change in a specific local culture, even in the Christian context, can be difficult. The cultural interpretive filters in which we are raised help form our worldview and affect how we interpret everything from the Bible, the culture, the stories shared by friends, and so on. The more self-aware we become concerning our local cultural biases and our own regionalized worldview, the more ready we will be to consider seriously the seismic shifts needed in our families, our churches and our organizations if we are to relate with missional effectiveness to the world in which we live. Step one in this process is the realization that something does not quite add up with the status quo, the way things have been for a long while.

For example, we might come to realize through the sharing of common narratives in our communities and homes, that the way we have been living our lives and doing church has left far too little margin for most churches or individuals to have a legitimate incarnational influence in the communities where we live and work. It is the sharing of stories which energizes a sense of discontent.

On the other hand, we might begin to hear stories of families who are making an impact in their neighborhoods, reaching out to their neighbors with loving compassion and service. They have made choices to slow down enough where this is possible. The beauty of their stories compels us to inquire further so that we might begin to experience some of what they enjoy.

Questions for personal reflection:

What is your story? Do you long for a way of living which seems elusive, as if it is only possible for others but not you? Do you long to find margin enough to slow down and get to know your neighbors, even your family on a heart level? Is your pace of life out of control? Do you know a family who seems to have reclaimed control of their pace of life? What is their story? Is it possible that observing the conduct of their lives, despite any frailties they might have, could inform your choices in the days ahead? What are your deepest God given longings which have yet to be realized? Have you shared this with trusted friends and family? If not, why?

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