Thursday, February 08, 2007

Re-discovering The Story

If you asked what I believed about God as a child, I probably would've told you a story. I would've told you about the battle between God and Satan and how things went wrong, how Jesus made things right and how one day God is going to make everything new again.

If you asked me what I believed about God a few years ago, I would've probably launched into a logical, systematic explanation of the fundamental beliefs of our church, whilst praying that the listener (or I) wouldn't die of boredom in the process!

If you ask me what I believe today, I think I'd return to the old story that captured my imagination years ago as a child - "The Story" that drew me into choosing to be on God's side.

It's not that I don't appreciate systematic theology. But I (and my Senior Pastor, Andrew Skeggs) have come to believe that people would rather hear a story than a sermon. As I reflect upon the Adventist Church's history, I find it interesting that "The Great Controversy" story seemed to define our mission and movement for over century, well before the 27 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were voted on.

So at our church's annual business meeting, we made the decision to accept a complimentary belief statement. We're hoping the belief statement will help us to recover "The Story" that has inspired millions to join God in His mission to redeem and restore the world.

Check it out below... I'm keen to know what you think about it.

The God Story
We believe the Bible has been inspired by God to tell the story of God’s love for humanity, a story that continues to unfold today.

Creation and Rebellion
The one God in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) created men and women in his image to live in loving relationship with him, others and creation. But human beings chose to join the rebellion against God started by a fallen angel known as Satan. Now humanity is flawed by the selfishness, fear and alienation caused by the separation from God known as sin.

God Reveals His Love through Israel
God is determined to restore his relationship with human beings and renew his creation. God chose Abraham and his descendants, the ancient people of Israel, to reveal his loving and just character to the world. God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt and gave them a promised land as their home. Although Israel turned away from God many times, he never abandoned them, even when they were in exile.

Jesus – the Deliverer
In fulfilment of prophecy and promise, Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, became a human being to fully reveal God to humanity. Jesus came to bring freedom to all who are poor, oppressed, broken hearted or captive. He announced a new way of living based on God’s love. Jesus’ life, death on a cross and resurrection from the dead were the decisive events in the cosmic victory of love over sin, evil and death. He now freely offers this victory to human beings who can thereby experience abundant, transformed and renewed lives.

God Reveals His Love through the Church
Jesus has ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit in all his power to bless humanity. All who accept Jesus’ victory over evil and choose to follow him are called to be a Christ-centred community called the church who use their God-given gifts to worship God, love others and share hope with the world.

Through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ followers are devoted to living according to Jesus’ teachings and example in their every decision and action. This includes those to do with baptism, communion with God, health, resources and relationships. Christ-centred living expresses grateful worship in response to God’s presence in everyday lives and impacts a hurting and broken world with God’s love and justice.

Seventh-day Adventists celebrate God’s presence with them by setting aside every seventh-day (Saturday) as a special Sabbath time for focussed rest, worship and service for God with other believers.

God Restores His Creation
The church has often failed to live up to its calling to be the body of Christ. But God has continued to reform the church to be the people of God and engage in the mission of God in anticipation of the return of Jesus. Jesus Christ is now preparing to personally return to Earth a second time to fully establish God’s kingdom of love. Those who have accepted God’s love will be resurrected or transformed to live eternal lives. Jesus will take his followers to heaven for a time, and then return with them to cleanse the Earth from sin, rebellion, pain and death so that God’s children can enjoy his presence in the joy of a renewed creation.

As Jesus’ followers we work together with God to anticipate the restoration of creation by bringing God’s healing and love to our world today. We will share the good news of the eternal loving presence of God with the whole world.


  1. Amen and amen. Perhaps if anything sets Adventism apart, it's that Great Controversy meta-narrative.

  2. I believe there is something amazingly insightful and important about understanding God's interactions with humanity and humanity's responses to God as narrative theology as opposed to a systematic one--a story unfolding rather than a counter argument in a cosmic legal proceeding.

    Might I observe though that your telling of the story (at least the summarization of it) still seems to be primarily based upon certain doctrinal assumptions as opposed to just how the story has unfolded until now.

    Please don't misunderstand. We all bring certain presuppositions to the table, and I don't mean to poke holes in your telling of this story in which we find ourselves. However, how we tell it is important; it shapes what we and our children begin to see as important. There are those of us who would emphasize other things than what you have, but that's one of the benefits of a narrative theology. Almost immediately one begins to recognize that personal contexts shape how the story unfolds for each of us, and that each of us with our diferent emphases are a part of writing the story more broadly. We're all in the game (to switch metaphors for a brief moment :-)--not just those of a particular ilk!

    My hope is that we will learn to co-write the story for the good of all of God's creation and not just for the good of ourselves.

  3. One of the best studies of this developing story in scripture is Jon Paulien's book "What the Bible Says About the Endtime." It goes through the Bible and shows how God sought to work with His children at different stages in history, then explores what this tells us about the end-time to come.

  4. You're saying what I've been coming to understand more and more. People learn and remember stories much better than they remember traditional "Bible studies." Why do they start to lose interest when their Sabbath School lessons move from stories to "theology"?

    I teach students who may or may not be interested in Christianity or Adventism, but one thing I've found is that many of them want to learn the stories rather than the theology. I find these stories so powerful. Yet we westerners (all Christianity? I don't know) have boiled everything down to key texts and being able to zig-zag through the Bible from one point to the next.

    I would like to see more story telling in our preaching and teaching. Somehow, we shy away from it, even though we are all drawn to it (talk about a Catch 22).

    Very interesting post, plus interesting comment from Melvin--I'm checking out your website as well.


  5. I'm all about stories. I especially love to hear personal testimonies. To me, these are exciting to hear. I know sometimes we get into a one-up mentality with testimony, but I still enjoy it.

    Great post, Melvin!