A psychologist friend of mine has pointed me in the direction something called narrative therapy. I’m fascinated by the vistas it opens up, and not just for psychological practice.
It’s spurred me to address one of the gaps in my theology (which John has laid his finger on over at Skunk Egg Brick Walnut) — spiritual warfare, demons, demon-possession, that sort of thing.
Crucial to this is the emphasis on ‘extenalising the problem’ in narrative therapy, which is (once again) about how you tell the story…
In the interests of concrete illustration (rather than the vague, hand-waving generalities of the previous post), let me quote from Total Church itself:
“God is a missionary God and God’s primary missionary method is his covenant people. Humanity was made in the image of the triune God. The purpose of an image is to represent something and we were made to represent God on earth. God made us as persons-in-community to be the vehicle through which he would reveal his glory. But humanity has grasped for autonomy from God. We fell under the curse of God, and human community has become fractured. The image-bearers of God fall short of his glory…”
You can probably see already what a big difference it makes to tell the story this way. God’s loving purposes for you and me need to be set in the wider context of his loving purposes for humanity and the world. Thus…
“God begins his plan to create a new humanity with his promise to Abraham. By focusing on Abraham, God has not abandoned the rest of humanity, for through Abraham, blessing will come to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3).”
No surprises then that the church finds a natural and obvious home:
The church […] is not something additional or optional. It is at the very heart of God’s purposes. Jesus came to create a people who would model what it means to live under his rule. It would be a glorious outpost of the kingdom of God: an embassy of heaven. This is where the world can see what it means to be truly human.
So, next time someone says to me, ‘I can be a Christian without going to church, can’t I?’ (as though it’s an optional extra) — even though I sympathise with not wanting to make church membership a precondition for a right standing with God — I’ll just take a deep breath and start: ‘Well, it depends how you tell the story…’