Monday, October 10, 2022
Logan Prince graduated from Liberty University in 2019 with degrees in Journalism and Theology and Apologetics. Since graduating, he has been working as a producer at Bellevue Baptist Church in Nashville, TN.
Stories matter. Worldview stories shape perspectives. Fictional stories instill values. The grand narrative of the Bible influences, well, everything. Stories fill a perennial role in the lives of all humans; they serve as a sort of collective memory, inculcating ideas and patterns into our lives. Through stories we can experience suffering, discover love, and learn lessons that we never would have been exposed to otherwise. The stories we hear shape our perception of reality, normality, and relationships. This is why Christian story telling matters. Building stories that reflect the Gospel is a key way of helping people understand the Gospel, and this is why redemptive story telling is so significant.
While I was a student at Liberty University, I double majored. My passion for writing led me to Journalism while my passion for Christian doctrine led me to Theology and Apologetics. Like most students—except for those few who possess unusual clarity on their postgrad path—I had no clue how I was going to use my degrees. I certainly had no idea how to combine them. I felt caught between two worlds. On one side, certain news outlets wielded accusations of hypocrisy and harsh rhetoric to attack the faith whose history and depth I was studying and basing my life upon. On the other side was a regiment of fellow believers aggressively building walls to keep out the dishonest and biased efforts of “mainstream media.” I found myself standing, unwittingly, in the middle of this tense conflict.
It seemed like I had to pick a side. Should I be a journalist or a theologian? Thankfully, through the advice of professors, friends, and some wonderful books, I have found a way to bring my two passions together—a “marriage of state,” if you will. Historically speaking, a marriage of state is a diplomatic union intended to bring or keep peace between two countries. In this case, I wanted to bring together elements from both sides of my education to demonstrate the power of the Gospel in storytelling. Taking the practice of investigative journalism and joining it with the redemptive themes and hopes of Christianity leads to a beautiful practice—redemptive storytelling.
Redemptive storytelling is the sharing of real stories that both reflect the truth of God’s already accomplished redemptive work and partake in God’s ongoing work of redemption at individual and universal levels.
Let’s break that down.
Envisioning Redemptive Storytelling
To start, redemptive stories are the real stories of our families, neighbors, communities, nations, and world. Every real story should hint at redemption—that in some way God has rescued this story from what it would’ve been without him. Left on its own, every story would be tragic and hopeless. Only with God can goodness enter in since “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Redemptive stories ought to participate in the continuation of God’s redeeming work. As a believer who shares the stories of others, I can tell stories in a way that shows others the possibility and reality of redemption in the lives of people, in broken societal structures, and in our fallen world.
I’ve been lucky enough to produce and write these redemptive stories for a few years now, first in college and now as a video producer for a church. My experience so far has showed me why redemptive storytelling is important and what the best redemptive stories often look like. To start, redemptive storytellers function as archeologists uncovering stories. Sometimes this looks like encouraging people to share their testimonies of God’s grace. Other times it may consist of bringing sins to light that have been wrongly kept in the dark. No matter what is being revealed, redemptive storytellers are to be gentle, thorough, and never exaggerate their findings.
Another helpful way of understanding redemptive storytelling is through optometry. Redemptive storytellers are meant to help Christians truly see the people, communities, and issues around them. Unless the Church sees individuals hurting, it will never be moved to bring about healing. Unless the Church sees the realities of local communities, it will never know how to be a good neighbor. And unless the Church sees examples of God’s faithfulness in the past, it will begin to doubt whether God will be faithful in the future. Seeing is an important starting point; while one can see or know without loving, one can never love without seeing or knowing.
Lastly, redemptive storytellers are worship leaders. Individually, it is an act of worship for a person to use their talents to tell stories that honor God. Corporately, as people encounter God, His creation, and His truth through these stories, worship should follow. Though there should be entertaining aspects to these stories, their primary purpose is to leave people thinking about God, his ways, and his glory.
Redeeming Incomplete Stories
It is tempting (and far easier) to tell stories with simple and tidy endings, but I have found that the best redemptive stories are actually the messy, incomplete ones. I do not mean incomplete in terms of production — because poor grammar or sloppy video editing will only distract from the story — but incomplete in terms of the redemptive story itself. Redemption hasn’t been fully realized in the Christian story of redemption yet; Christ is coming again. It makes sense, then, that our stories of redemption will reflect this incompletion.
The redemptive power of incomplete stories is twofold. First, incomplete stories are real. Life does not end for people, ministries, or movements when the story ends. Indicating this incompleteness is honest and should prevent Christians from chasing after “perfect” stories — where it seems God has resolved all of a person’s struggles and trials. That is not reality. If every testimony finishes neatly with a bow on top, then we are tilling the soil of people’s hearts and planting seeds of unrealistic expectations that may grow into weeds of doubt. People do not need complete stories that make them question why their life has not reached perfection. They need incomplete stories that point them to the One who is perfect.
Incomplete stories are also uniquely redemptive since they mirror the beautiful complexity of the Kingdom of God. In many ways, the Kingdom of God has already been initiated on this earth through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but it has not yet fully arrived. The nations will rage and creation will groan until the second coming of Christ. The “already, but not yet” nature of the Kingdom can be difficult to communicate, which is why incomplete stories are so valuable. Telling stories in which God has already worked, but is not finished working, gives Christians a framework to understand how to be faithfully present while waiting for God to complete His work and story in the universe.
All stories matter. Each person’s story matters. And as a result, there are billions of redemptive stories to be told. The harvest is ripe.
This article was taken from the fourth volume of Faith and the Academy, a journal published by the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement. Read more at this link.