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My Biggest Regret!

I was watching some Ted Talk videos on some extremely important environmental and cultural topics while drinking a $4 cup of bitter coffee when it hit me. The realization struck me right between the eyes, so vividly it caused me to sit back in my chair! Looking back over the “course of my human events” I felt that I would have made a great liberal. 
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about switching political affiliations although I do regret a couple of ballots I have cast. I am referring to the true definition of the word liberal, open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.” You see, my biggest regret is that I missed out on some great opportunities to learn some new ideas and experience new adventures because I was not open to new behavior or opinions. I regret the stories that I missed along the way because I was closed to seeing the landscape from a different perspective and hearing the songs from a different voice. 
I think age and maturity have eased my staunch attitudes from those of my youth. You would also think that churches of a “certain age” would learn from their past and look for new opportunities to help people write new stories. But, unfortunately in my experience, many churches that I have encountered miss out on these new opportunities because they are “unwilling to discard traditional values.” One of my favorite aspects of Jesus’ one-on-one encounters with people was that he helped them understand that they were not defined by their past stories. He showed all of them how they could be a part of “His-story” if they were open to new behavior and willing to discard their old stories. Sound familiar? 
Similarly, I am not a fan of defining churches by their labels. Of course, they help us differentiate certain beliefs and practices, but I don’t agree that centuries-old traditions should dictate how we live into the Great Commission today. (Note: a recent Barna study says that 51% of churchgoers don’t know of the Great Commission, we’ll address that one in an upcoming blog post.) So why do so many churches still look and act like they did in 1950? 
I think an important part of the church becoming a relevant option where hurting people of a new generation can find comfort and support is that we start finding them out in the world and listening to their stories. How do we do that? We seek out new opinions and adopt new behaviors that put us in situations where we are face-to-face, talking with people. When we understand their story and more importantly, the other person feels like their story has been heard, then we can share how Jesus changed our life. It starts with leaving the safe confines of “the church” and be willing to care enough to listen and empathize with some horrific and heart-breaking stories of people that need Jesus, but don’t know where to look. 
Most church consultants and leaders, me included, are constantly talking about how the church has to change to be relevant and survive the dramatic changes in our world. But change is scary, and difficult, and painful. It’s hard to get a group of people to agree to change their direction from a comfortable and safe path that they have followed for years to embark on a new journey into new areas. One way to do something new in your church is to fully invest in an old skill that Jesus modeled for us as the foundation for his ministry. Become story collectors and storytellers; teach your people how to find and hear stories from people in their communities and then how to share their story. It doesn’t always require new technology or new buildings, but it does require us to find the courage to open our hearts up to new opinions and new behaviors.
As we say down in the South, “for the next little while” we are going to talk about stories – how to hear new ones and then how to share ours. I think if your people are active story collectors and unashamed storytellers, then your church can change the world, one story at a time! I’m not asking you to adopt a liberal or a conservative label, I’m just imploring you to not miss some great stories because you were too stubborn to listen! 


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