Are Your People Telling Stories?
This summer my congregation is a lectionary church. So for those of you who use the lectionary on a regular basis, you know that one of last Sunday’s scriptures was the story about Jacob and his celebrated stairway (I’m sure that’s where Led Zepplin got their inspiration for the most famous slow-dance song of all time). Of course, I always sing the other song about Jacob’s ladder. So who can tell me which it is? Ladder or stairway? Let’s sing it correctly, dear friends or let’s just hedge our bet and switch it up – “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder. We are climbing Jacob’s stairway. (Louder now) We are climbing Jacob’s ladder/stairway…”
|But I digress. The most important thing about last week’s scripture wasn’t about a ladder or a stairway. It was about Jacob waking up and saying, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”
After setting the context, that scripture gave my pastor a great opportunity to invite two lay people to give their testimonies about a time that they felt the “presence of the Lord” in their lives. Bob and Paula recalled distinct times when they felt God present under the most difficult of circumstances and in the most surprising ways. The service went from a “Hmmmm, that’s an interesting story about Jacob and his strange dream” to “Wow…now I get it.” Their stories of faith were powerful, emotional, and memorable.
The Work of the People (www.theworkofthepeople.com) is a story-filled multi-media website that describes itself as “an independent ecumenical platform that produces and publishes multimedia to stir imagination, spark discussion and move people toward discovery and transformation.”
The very first video I watched was “Bullfrogs and Butterflies” – the testimony of Sarah Bessey whose babysitter felt called to give her the record, you guessed it, “Bullfrogs and Butterflies.” Unbelievably, Sarah’s entire family came to a saving grace through listening to this 70's Christian children’s album. During the video, you can tell that Sarah is fully aware that there will be many people rolling their eyes at the seeming absurdity and simplicity of this story. But then she says, “You can argue with all the theology you want, but you can’t argue with my story.”
People need to tell their stories (i.e. give their testimonies) and church is one of the great and few places that can happen. So guide your people and give them the opportunity to tell their inspiring, genuine, heartfelt stories of the power of God, the power of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Ladder or stairway aside, you can bet that as a result people will leave worship or a meeting saying, “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. The second best slow song of all time is, of course, Colour My World. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.