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Friday, February 21, 2014

"The Story Lives" (Henriet Schapelhouman)

TITLE: The Story Lives: Leading a Missional Revolution
AUTHOR: Henriet Schapelhouman
PUBLISHER: Denver CO: Tendril Press, 2012, (224 pages).

What does it mean to make God's story ours? How do we let God's story live in us. What if our lives become a living story for God? Is it impossible? Not if we learn to live missionally and incarnationally, says Schapelhouman, founder and President of Semper Vita Institute, a network of volunteers and partners who experience life through serving the communities around them.

If I were to summarize this book in my own words, I would say the following. Know God's story and know God. Know our story and know ourselves. Know God's mission and we know our mission. Indeed, after emphasizing that our stories reveal our identities, we are soon reminded that our story is part of a more exciting Big Story. This bigger story is larger than our small inner boxes of self, Church, and comfortable circle of friends. We are called to "Live out Loud," a play on the popular social media term "LOL." As we live, we are writing our stories. As we interact, we are letting people "read" our stories through responding, through acting, loving, speaking, and many more.

The chapter on "Stories Lived in Boxes" in my opinion is a giant wake up call for the Church to learn from what the Early Church had done, to be God's missionary people. Lamenting that the modern Church has given in to much pagan influences, she asks whether we are "being the Church" or simply "going to Church." Are our stories about people or programs? Are we boxing ourselves in and forgetting that God's mission is bigger than the four walls of our church communities? Do we know God enough to sense what God is up to?

Three things frames what it means to be living our stories for Christ through "Love in Action" which comprises of: Missional, Relational, and Incarnational. Being "missional" is about participating in God's work in such a way that we are active players in the work of redemption, reconciliation, repentance, and restoration. It requires a transformation of our own mindsets, approaches, and lifestyles. It is a lot more outward focused than inward. That leads to the need to be relational in our approaches. Through networks, neighbourhoods, and our links to the communities we live in, we learn to be missional people as we interact and help people in need. For Jesus is relational. The Early Christians are relational. We too need to be relational for the Gospel is relational. Tell our stories about Jesus in our lives. While being "missional" is about actions, being "relational" is about bringing the face and person of Christ through our own lives, that others see Jesus in us. Incarnational is becoming more like Christ living and loving people in this world. Being incarnational is about living God's love through us.

So What?

The word "missional" is a popular catch-phrase for many Christian leaders nowadays. So widely used it is that I find more abuses and misunderstanding of it. For instance, some people think of missional as a new vocabulary to replace the old word "mission." That is not true. For mission is understood as an objective, missional is about the whole process. It is about living within and without communities. Alan Roxburgh describes it as follows: “A missional church is a community of God’s people who live into the imagination that they are, by their very nature, God’s missionary people living as a demonstration of what God plans to do in and for all of creation in Jesus Christ.” It is about creating the cultures and contexts so that God's story can flow through unimpeded, uninterrupted, and unlimited. For Schapelhouman, it is simply the living out of God's story in us, so that we can help others live out God's story in them. It is about being unleashed for God ourselves, and that our energies and excitement can be used by the Holy Spirit to unleash others for God. Once we are unleashed for God, and when God's will is being fulfilled in our lives, we will not just be living our own stories, we will be living God's stories through us in the Name of Christ.

For sheer practical applications and energy within, I give this book a big thumbs up!

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of the publisher and the SpeakEasy Blog Review Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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