Written by Adam Kline
Since the beginning of human existence, story has connected our species. Imagine our ancient ancestors huddled around the campfire telling tales of imagination and memory, stories of history, heritage, and hope. Spoken words have always helped bind people together to create community.
We think of Scripture as written, but many of its stories were first passed down orally from generation to generation. Instead of seeing this oral tradition as a more primitive form of communication, what if it’s the wellspring of communication? Because what is a story, anyway?
For a story to exist, a word must be spoken, and that word must be heard. Stories require an exchange, a discourse or dialogue. So, at the very least, a story (even a divine one) requires one to speak and another to listen. And if we look to Scripture, we find that in Genesis 1, the very first action or description of God ever written is this: “And God said…” (Genesis 1:3).
In order for creation and creatures to exist, God had to speak. As G.K. Chesterton put it in his book Orthodoxy, “This world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a storyteller.”
But to whom did God speak? When the Divine spoke the cosmos into existence, who was there to listen? Perhaps Scripture points us in the right direction: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26). God is One-and-Three. God speaks and He hears. God hears and He creates. Whether Father, Spirit, or Son, the Trinitarian nature of God reveals for us a divine conversation, an eternal story that speaks our lives into existence.
In The Story of God, Michael Lodahl writes,“The same Spirit who acted in Israel’s history, and especially in the life and ministry of Jesus, is the Spirit who, as we encounter the story of those saving acts through the Scriptures, may make that Story so vital and living in our hearts as to draw us into it. We become participants, actors in the ongoing Story of God.”
We are increasingly living in a society that has more in common with the ancient tradition of oral storytelling than the written practices we have inherited (even though you are in fact reading this written article).
Through a plethora of screens both large and small, we are living less in a text-based society and more in an oral-accustomed culture. We are a civilization that primarily speaks and hears, rather than writes and reads. From movies on the big screen, to streaming series on a smaller screen, to our social media feed on tinier screens, we are consistently engaged in hearing, receiving, and responding to shared stories.
Ironically, this is exactly what we were made for in the first place. To speak and receive. To receive and respond. To gather around the campfire, share stories of old, and discover together that those stories are now our stories, and that the Spirit who first spoke is the same Spirit who now lives in us and stirs us to play our part. To create, collaborate, and communicate the greater story—His Story. So, I hope you’ll join us on the journey, here in these pages and online, as we discern and discover that God’s story is in fact alive and well, Behind the Screens.
Adam Kline is pastor of the Marmora Free Methodist Church and leader of the Intercultural Engagement Team for the Free Methodist Church in Canada. He is deeply passionate about discerning the divine nature through narrative and the complexities of communication across cultures. He loves to sip a freshly roasted dark roast and to spend time in the kitchen both cooking (and eating) his grandmother’s sweet and sour meatloaf.