Why Use Narrative in Ministry?
In almost all cross-cultural contexts, people use stories as a way of communicating and even as a way of knowing. The use of story best communicates the way life is – complex and holistic. Whether it is in Ibero-America or Saskatchewan, Canada, WRG works with people who are story-based. We tell and listen to stories. Nested in the stories are component parts, inter-relationships, and embedded truths. Truth in story is practical – life and experience related. Throughout the world, cross-cultural workers are exploring and experiencing the effectiveness of a narrative-based approach to communication and relationships.
The entire missionary enterprise, along with most of Western culture, is embracing the effective method of storytelling. Story is the new language of marketing, management, psychology, and education.
In his 1997 book, Story As A Way Of Knowing, Kevin Bradt argues that human knowing, thinking, and consciousness are inextricably tied to a mode of communication, namely story. He writes, “Story is not just an art form or literary genre but a way of structuring thought (p. 233). Ken Gnanakan’s call to “recover the significance” of the creeds (2004, p. 24) will be answered by “reclaiming story” (Bradt, 1997, p. 88).
Richard Bauckham writes that a meta-narrative “is an attempt to grasp the meaning and destiny of human history as a whole by telling a single story about it; to encompass, as it were, all the immense diversity of human stories in a single, overall story which integrates them into a single meaning…a single story about the whole of human history in order to attribute a single integrated meaning to the whole. It is a totalizing framework, one which tries to subsume everything within its concept of the truth” (1993, pp. 4, 86-87). The overarching story validates or invalidates all other stories (Ward, 2003). Note Donald Carson's application of this critical truth to the use of Scripture. "The Bible as a whole document tells a story, and, properly used, that story can serve as a meta-narrative that shapes our grasp of the entire Christian faith. In my view it is increasingly important to spell this out to Christians and to non-Christians, as part of our proclamation of the gospel. The ignorance of basic Scripture is so disturbing in our day that Christian preaching that does not seek to remedy the lack is simply irresponsible" (1996, p. 84).