Introduction – Dr. Bastian’s Heaven

“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
                                                              I Corinthians 13:12

When I was in graduate school, I traveled to northern Wisconsin and met the great American theatre director Paul Sills. Sills was the founding director of Chicago’s improvisational theatre, The Second City. Even though Sills is unknown outside the profession, he has directed and taught so many who have become luminaries. He also developed the theatrical form known as “story theatre.”

I was writing my thesis about Paul’s career, and I had come to revere him so much that I was terrified to meet him. In fact, a few people I interviewed told me that Paul would never talk to me, or if he did, he might respond petulantly. I pulled my car up next to the barn where Paul for decades led classes on improvisational acting. I got out. I looked toward the house, and there he was, the icon, standing in the doorway. I stumbled up to him and stood there, speechless.     

I figured he would at least throw a chair at me.     

He reached out a gracious hand and said, “I’m Paul.” Then he pulled me up the steps into his kitchen where he said, “I’ll make you a sandwich.” He saved my life. We ultimately had a lovely conversation, sans petulance. At one point, he said, “I’m applying for a teaching job. Give me your response to the way I’ve done my resume. I haven’t done one of these before.”     

He was the cliché artistic personality—an alien in a capitalist society. This became clearer to me a year later when I finished my first year of teaching at Geneva College, a small Christian liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. Karen and I traveled back to Chicago to visit family and see some plays. I discovered that Paul had returned to the city, and a play of his was running in the little theatre off the alley behind The Second City. Here was my chance to see the great man’s work. We made reservations, and when we arrived at the box office, there, selling the tickets, was Paul himself. I re-introduced myself. He asked me what I was doing now. I told him I’d just finished my first year of teaching college theatre. I felt ashamed in the face of his significance. But when I looked at him, he had a shy grin on his face, and he said, “I wish I had a job like that.”     

Soon after I saw Paul in that little box office, the final draft of my thesis was accepted, and I sent a copy of it to the special theatre collection in the Harold Washington Library downtown Chicago. That was that. Paul and I took separate paths. I noted from afar that Paul finally got a job teaching. Mike Nichols, an old friend of Paul’s, joined with him and one other teacher to found an actor’s conservatory in New York.      

Paul’s work and words have continued to influence my life. It was at the farm that he said, almost offhandedly, “Stories contain the truth and wisdom of the ages.” That’s a truth I almost missed. I grew up in a church that taught me that the Bible contained the truth and wisdom of the ages. As a child, I understood that to mean that truth was to be found in the form of argument, proof-text and bumpersticker. It took a liberal arts education to convince me that all truth was God’s truth, wherever it may be found. It was years after that, even years after I met Paul Sills, when I came to understand that all beauty is God’s beauty, and truth is present in artistic form. It was right in front of my face all along in the stories of the Hebrew Bible and the parables of Jesus.    

I believe that one of the reasons I missed the power of story was that my worshipping tradition included reverence for Jesus through song, offering, prayer, text, and rationale. Story was for children’s Sunday School or for private devotions. Story did not earn a hearing in the most formative place of the church—its public worship.     

You will see as you read this book that I have not changed my mind about Jesus, but I have changed my mind about story.    

This is a book for those who wish to think about the place of story in worship. It’s a book about worship and story, and it’s also a book of stories. (In other words, I am trying to put my money where my mouth is. I aim to do what I say.)     

You may read the chapters in any order. Each will tell its own tale. And, as the wonderful contemporary memoirist Dennis Covington says, our lives themselves are stories. The stories of this book will add up—becoming one way of telling the story of one life’s worship journey thus far.    

Sometimes, I’ll focus on worship by itself, but usually I’ll be busy noticing the edge where worship touches story and storytelling. I am speaking of story in at least the following specific ways: Bible story, history, parable, personal story, and story as structure. This is about stories within worship as well as the story form of the whole worship service.

I am attempting to encourage those who worship and those who lead other worshippers to ask this simple question:  what should we do about story?    

Before we get on with the stories, I’d like to say something in an attempt to tone down the potential arrogance and polarizing inherent in this journey we’re about to take together. To do that, I’d like to invite you sideways to a book about writing. In “Writing Down the Bones,” Natalie Goldberg says, 

Learning to write is not a linear process. There is no logical A-to-B-to-C way to become a good writer. One neat truth about writing cannot answer it all.      

It seems to me that what Goldberg says here about writing is also immediately true of worship. This worshipful path is not straight. There is no logical way to become a good worshipper. Worship is as messy as living. Worship is, as A.W. Tozer says, the reason we are alive—our purpose on this earth—but there is no one neat truth to answer how to do worship or how to lead others into doing worship.    

In her book on writing, Goldberg explains that she is attempting to help writers access “the essential, awake speech of their minds.” The worship leader in me is reminded of the phrase “full, conscious, and active participation,” which is the goal for worshipers described in Vatican II’s “Sacrosanctum Concilum” (1963).      

Goldberg’s suggestion for the process of authentic writing is to, “Write down the bones.” A writer who is writing down the bones is putting the inner life down on the page. The inside is turned outward, and that which is written down shows the basic truth of this person.     

I suggest that our goal as worshippers is to “worship out the bones;” to bring the inner life out in our worship, all the way to the “spirit and truth” of which Jesus spoke. You may think I’m saying that true worship is from the very bones, as in “worship out [of] the bones.” That would be really passionate worship. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m trying for a more mystical image. I’m picturing a vulnerable worship, in which the worshiper becomes willing to acknowledge reality, as God knows it to be. The honest to goodness truth comes out. It is a kind of worship in which the inner, God-seen life is turned outside. The skeletons come out of the closet.     

It’s a sort of gruesome image. Think of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones being imbued with spirit, and you’ll have permission to let your mind wander into such territory.  Think of Psalm 103, “He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.”     

I’m striving toward an image which no longer accepts worship all dressed up in “Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes.” This is worship that is as hospitable and honest as an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.     

How does that work? We tell our stories. “Hi my name is Jeff, and I’m a sinner. Here’s what happened…”    

Goldberg says she wants to be writing down the bones because, “I want someone to know me. We walk through so many myths of each other and ourselves; we are so thankful when someone sees us for who we are and accepts us.”    

I want someone to know me. I want God to know me. I want you to know me. I want to worship out the bones.    

“Bones-out” worship is:
    
essential,
    
awake,
    
full,
    
conscious,
    
active,
    
participatory,
    
and true.    

I don’t know how to get to those if we’re not telling our stories. But this book is no prescription. There is no one way to write. There is no one way to love. There is no one way to worship. Am I being relativist? I hope not. I do believe that we can say there are ways that you cannot worship God. You cannot worship God with human sacrifice. You cannot worship God with an act of injustice. You cannot worship God by worshipping God’s creation. The list goes on. True worship is true love of God and therefore has as many variations as there are lovers.         

I’d like to hear your love story.    

What do the bones look like in your own worship? Your answer might include 
     your affection for God, 
           
 
    
sadness for your sins,
           
    
gratefulness for God at work,
    
helplessness without God,           
    
grief for where God is not yet,
           
    
submission to God’s assignments,
           
    
giddy celebration over God.
All of these (and more) make up the skeletal structure of our relationship with God. Can we reveal each of these “bones” every time we worship? No. Perhaps, however, we can strive for such revelations over a life of worship.    

If we are not willing to worship out the bones, may we still call it worship? Can we at least have a conversation about that? Can we at least tell each other some stories? Can at least one song move over to make room?  

Many of us in the church have been away from hearing and telling stories so long that we are confused about getting started. Perhaps believing that it should be difficult, we confess that we don’t have the slightest idea how to start.     

In my experience, getting started is actually pretty simple. You start by saying, “I’d love to hear what your life has been like.” With trust and sensitivity as our protectors, these personal stories can soon find their way into the fabric of our public life together.        

Until I was five, my parents took us eight kids to a Baptist church. There was an article in the paper which included a picture of the Barker family taking up an entire pew. But that church apparently wasn’t separatist enough, so my parents helped start a non-denominational, fundamentalist Bible church, which nurtured and nagged me until college. Somewhere in there, I learned to study the Bible and I made some private and public professions of faith and I was baptized. I went away to a Free Methodist college. My first year at college, I was a youth leader at a Presbyterian church. About this time, my sister was telling me of her experiences in the charismatic Jesus movement of southern California. Then my college art professor took us into a Catholic cathedral in St. Louis where I saw centuries-old mosaics and walked the stations of the cross for the first time. It devastated me. I didn’t have a box for Christ’s church anymore. 

It was on a Sunday night during those college years that I heard Donald Bastian preach a sermon about what heaven may be like. This was long before I became rooted in Reformed theology and long before Dr. Bastian became a Bishop of the Free Methodist Church in Canada. I was just a college student afraid that he was losing his faith, and Reverend Bastian was just the pastor of the college church. On the Sunday night in question, he said that he believes when we are in heaven, we will know everyone as we are known. In other words, our personalities will be hanging out for everyone to see. Pastor Bastian said he didn’t know how it would happen, but he believed it would be true. There would no longer be the need for secrets, and finally, we could be known. I was terrified of the idea, but I also knew that he was describing what I wanted.    

I’ve come to believe that Dr. Bastian was right, and that, as with the journey of sanctification, we should not wait for heaven. We should start now.

© 2006 Jeff Barker

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “Introduction – Dr. Bastian’s Heaven

  1. Jon Nelson

    Thank you, Jeff. I’m looking forward to reading more. I would like to hear your thoughts on preaching. Should preaching be different in the worship context you are describing? Thanks, Jon

  2. Mark Andersen

    A very good introduction, Jeff. It leaves me wanting to read the rest of the book. I particularly liked the image of the AA meeting: “My name is Mark, and I’m a sinner…” I think that’s a great image for worship in the body of Christ. The introduction has already given me things to think about.

    One thing I’m unsure of, however, is when you say,
    “Before we get on with the stories, I’d like to say something in an attempt to tone down the potential arrogance and polarizing inherent in this journey we’re about to take together. ” I’m unsure of what arrogance and polarizing you’re referring to. Maybe it’s because I’ve studied under you and Tom Bogaart. Maybe it’s because it’s still so early in the morning. I guess my questions for you are these: What group do you visualize being offended or becoming polarized by what you write? And will naming the posibility here in the intoduction serve to diminish that polarization or heighten their expectation for it? I realize that some of that may be answered by the chapters themselves, but if not, something to think about.

    Thanks for writing this, and for including me on the list. I am looking forward to the rest.

    Blessings, Mark

  3. Julie Barnhart

    Jeff,
    I, too, like the image of Alcoholics Anonymous openness and acceptance and “worshipping from the bones”–wanting to know and be known through story.

    I, too, am from a strict, fundamentalist background. The looseness and giddy freedom of story is somewhat terrifying to me without some kind of strict doctrinal stance. However, I’m beginning to see the power of it and long for it more and more.

    Someone described heaven as “multiple intimacy without promiscuity.” Sorry, right now I can’t remember who. How awesome that will be! Perhaps the beginnings are possible now.

  4. Rosalyn

    Jeff,

    As always, your work is an inspiration to me and I am blessed to know you. God is using you in a big way with this, and I cannot wait to read more. In fact, I want the entire book in front of me because I know that I won’t be able to put it down.

    I too enjoyed the AA meeting approach that you mentioned. How much would we grow if that was indeed the approach we took? And how much pain would we rid ourselves of if we were in fact this open with each other?

  5. I’m not Reform, but Methodist, and attend a United Church with Church of Christ as partner….
    Introduction didn’t make me think of preaching but of members sharing their personal stories as a part of worship time. I don’t know you, nor have I studied under you. I am not yet sure what you are talking about in the introduction. If it is not personal testimony or personal stories told by the person who experienced the events, then is it a retelling of somebody’s story by somebody else….such as a preacher? Revealing self is very threatening to many so are you talking about small groups or whole congregation services or something else entirely?
    I look forward to the next installment. Donna

  6. Joe C.

    Hi Jeff – I appreciated the introduction and am sure your dealing with worship in a way we need to hear. I of course grew up in a Free Methodist context where “testimony” was basic to our Wesleyan faith & practice. I remember as a teenage boy from a non-Christian home being profoundly influenced by the testimony of a dear old saint in the church probably in her 80’s. Her “story” was so clear and consistent and rang true in my heart and mind.
    My only concern is that we become so subjectively centered on “my story” that we lose sight of the fact that worship is really “his story.” How do you see the two intersecting?

  7. Matt Foss

    Jeff,

    I was thinking of two things you might find interesting:

    first, this article in the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/051226fa_fact

    It talks about theatre’s role as moral instructor and its effect on the work of Phillip Pullman.

    The second is the chapter “Good Form” in Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”.

    These are some of my favorite “stimulations” on the idea and role of story.

    love,
    foss

  8. Matt Floding

    Jeff:
    This felt solid. It provides a durable, beautful and expansive platform to talk about worship. Thank you.

  9. Holly Donaghy

    My dear friend Jeff!

    You have always had great timing–and this was timed perfectly for me, today.

    At my father’s funeral in 2004, I met a Methodist minister, George Speakes. He was the pastor at my mother’s church where she was a new attendee. At any rate, George gave the funeral sermon on heaven. He spoke about how each of us has an idea about what heaven is like, that for him, Heaven is a lovely cottage in the woods, with a babbling brook out front with a little footbridge across which he could take a leisurely walk and find himself at… A NASCAR RACETRACK! He spoke about what he felt my father’s idea of heaven might be, based upon what we had told him of Daddy and how he found Jesus.

    I think we all have some thought about what is actually worship. I have a difficult time coping with the video taped segues that my church has become fond of using, along with the power point presentation that goes along with the sermon. I don’t think that God sees it as any more or less worshipful–it is that the participant feels that they are worshipping in the forum they find themselves within.

    Madeline L’Engle said it best: There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred.

    I look forward to more. You are in my heart and prayers, always.

    Love to you and Karen, Joseph, Hannah and Daniel

    Holly

  10. Jeff,

    I thank you for putting in the effort and heart to produce this book. It appears from the Introduction that this book will be well worth reading. I look forward to sharing it with my daugther, as well.

    As a preacer I have learned the importance of story. The Bible is full of stories. Our lives are full of stories. Stories stir the imagination – and that message of Christ needs to engage the imagination.

    Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading.

    Jimmy Long

  11. Debra Freeberg

    Dear Jeff:
    Getting down to the bones is risky for some. We may want people to know us down to the bones, but it means being vunerable, open, available to be hurt by the hearer. I think there is a distinction between story (universal) as told by Sills and others and story (testimony).
    Sometimes, members of the church don’t know how to appropriately share testimony (how much to reveal, how testimony becomes universal or applicable to others, and when and where appropriate). This takes discernment and training. Again, one could argue that providing the right place in the worships structure is the key.
    And it wouldn’t hurt for churches to help those who give testimony to give them a basic structure and time limit–practical public speaking tips.

  12. Debra Freeberg

    Continued.

    Public speaking tips doesn’t mean altering content, just shaping the content to be more accessible to the hearer.

    Thanks for all your wise words, Jeff. It’s encouraging me to get moving on my own work! Thanks!

  13. Amanda

    hi, i am not methedist or reformed but pentecostal(i think i spelled that right) but i do love worship and am interested in what you have to say about “worshipping out the bones” and your views on worship. For it is not just something you do for 10min in chapel or even an hour or two(like at my church) but worship should be a continual action that takes place from the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep. It’s not just about singing but worship is a life style pleasing unto our heavenly father.Worship should be a part of our very being, whether that is in song, dance, prayer, writing, or art.

  14. Jeff Barker

    Amen, Amanda! Worship is what we were made for 24/7. The distinction between corporate worship and private worship can help us reflect (for example, much of this book is focused toward corporate worship). But even that is an artifice, for we are ever and always joined in the corporation of angels and saints who cry “Holy, holy, holy” and with the trees of the field that clap their hands.

  15. katie g

    hi.
    i’m signed up for your ‘drama and worship’ class for next semester, so i thought i’d take a peek at what i’m getting myself into.
    if the class is anything like the intro to your book, i’m thrilled.
    i like the idea of using open and honest stories to enhance worship.
    one other person is currently signed up for your class. i’d be curious to find out who that is!
    thanks.
    ~katie. (kgard@nwciowa.edu)

  16. Jeff Barker

    Katie,

    Thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a gracious comment. I’m expecting our class to grow as more students register throughout this next week. We should have a great time together. I’ll email you offline about your classmates.

    Jeff

  17. Kelly

    Jeff,
    As I was reading chapter 8 I realized you talked about Karen as if all your readers know who she is. I know her of course but I wondered if others would know who you are talking about. I went back to the intro to see if you told us who Karen is. I don’t think you do. Do you think that should be here somewhere?
    Kelly

  18. Jeff Barker

    Kelly, and everyone,

    This is the sort of attention to detail that is so helpful – thank you!

    Karen is my beloved wife and best friend. I’m guessing I was hoping everyone would figure that out, but maybe I’ll have to state it in the text somewhere.

    Jeff

  19. Sanne (it rhymes with Donna)

    Hi Jeff,

    What fun! Jo Kadlecek said I HAD TO look at your site, so I did. My life work revolved around theatreasworshipasstory. Have you noted that Mark 4:34 informs us that Jesus spoke to the people in parables–“without a parable did he not say anything he said to them” is my favorite rendering of the rest of the sentence. Blows me away.

    If you don’t mind, put me on your list. I’d like to keep reading.

    Oh, by the way for what it’s worth: I liked it that you didn’t explain Karen. It made it more intimate for me. I guess I figured if she was a golden retriever or your grandmother’s neighbor, you would have explained. I assumed she was your wife, and it felt nice and cozy to have just met you and somehow have you expect me to step up to the plate in some friendly way.

    Sanne McCarthy

  20. Jeff Barker

    Sanne,

    Thanks for your wonderful note. Please send me your email address so I can put you on the list to receive regular updates.

    And I would love it if you’d place another post telling us about your own work that has “revolved around theatreasworshipasstory.” Or just have a conversation with me about via email, and I’ll perhaps be able to work that into another aspect of the book.

    Jeff

    P.S. for everyone – the Jo Kadlecek that Sanne mentioned is a fine storyteller whose work you will want to check out. Her blog (along with her writer, film-maker husband) is at http://lamppostmedia.net/

  21. Emily Entsminger

    Jeff, I think you hit the nail on the head when you were describing th stories of the Bible and how they are viewed by church members. The stories are for children in Sunday School, and the texts are viewed merely as any other children’s story; they are not viewed as containing truth and wisdom. I had not thought of, say David and Goliath as holding truth because I see it as a “feel good” story, but after reading this I understand that it-as well as others- contain real truth. So what should we do about story… is it enough to just tell our own stories and listen other people’s stories?? Also, I understand how our stories bring the “inside out” from the bones, but how can we use biblical stories to do the same thing? How can they help take worship to that intamate level?

  22. Katie Gard

    Jeff,
    I skimmed through the previous responses, and noticed that I am already on here once. Does that count? :) For the sake of time, I would be tempted to end there… except that I am inspired with more comments. I thought about how my home church would respond to the prospect of its members taking turns standing up in front of the congregation and being vulnerable with their own life stories. It would be beautiful, but it would take a lot of courage. It is a good thing that the Old Testament is full of stories. I wonder if members of my home congregation could ease into telling their stories by first telling the stories of the Bible. I like what I have been learning so far in class, and I am reaffirmed in my intention to offer the idea of drama in worship as an essential aspect that goes right along with my music ministry.

  23. Kailen Fleck

    Your stories of discovering all truth to be God’s truth is quite similar to my own story, Jeff. Christian liberal arts is a funny thing, but I’m thankful for the journey I’ve been on in discovering the truths God reveals to me. I like the AA idea. It’s a really scary thing because of how private Christians have made their worship and their lives, and while I believe worship and divulging of sins should be flippant, I do believe our secrecy can lead to often harrowing results. Worship is private, but it’s equally community based and manages to be found in denominations other than the ones we grew up. Who would have thought?! I haven’t been to the stations of the cross in a long time, but I was there with you when I read that part. Worship out the bones, worship out the inside! Very exciting!

  24. Rebekah Achenbach

    When I first started going to my current church, we had a time called “Treasure Chest Time” that was just for all the little kids of the church. Our worship leaders, Mark and Jody Stevenson, would sit the kids down, on the stage, and talk to them about the sermon that our pastor was about to talk about, putting it in terms they could understand. When you mentioned worshiping out the bones, this is the image that came to mind. Worshiping in the purest and simplist form possible so that we can truly experience God. Also, after remembering that Mark and Jody ran this time, I noticed the connection between worship (and by this, I mean singing) and storytelling. Mark and Jody were telling a story to the kids, while keeping the sense of worship 0r closeness to God in it. We have since lost this practice in my church because of lack of volunteers or people willing to do something like this, but the image is so vivid in my mind. Whenever I think of worship and storytelling, this will forever be the image I see. Even though this was a children’s time, it still held significance for the adults of the church because they (if they allowed themselves to be open to the idea) were able to again put the story and their faith into perpsective. The story became more than a simple Sunday School story, but it became a way to see their faith in a new way or an old way simply forgotten. Amazing.

  25. Sally Blezien

    Today in one of my classes we discussed the “Biblical Story”. We listed the characters, plot, setting, etc. It came out that the underlying plot of the Biblical story is good vs. evil. God vs. Satan. In terms of storytelling I wondered if while basically that is an overall present theme in the Bible, if there is more to it than that. I wondered what Jeff Barker would say I guess. Is that the story found in the Bible? Is that the story we find in our lives? If that is part of it, is there anything else?
    On another note, I am particularly interested in the idea of the story found within the structure of a worship service. I find the most powerful worship experiences I have had happen when pieces of the service are connected to each other and work together rather than being separate unrelated moments with God.

  26. Emily Fischer

    As a child, I experienced a divine moment of certainty regarding Jesus’ authentic message of life abundant. As an adolescent, I experienced a divine moment of certaintly regarding God’s call on my life to live in relationship with God and others. Two years later, I said “Yes” to God’s call for a life devoted to Christian ministry. Do I know exactly what that means? Of course not. I do know that my life is significantly different, now five years later, as I continue to seek God’s face and call on my life. My college experience has been extremely formative: I have doubted God’s existence, experienced disdain for my former worship tradition, gratefulness toward my former worship tradition, embarrassment at my prior concepts of God, and thankfulness for every dimension of God’s grace. My story is complex, as ours all are, yet I find that I cannot adequately embrace my life of Christian faith without revealing the uncertain, beautiful, and weird moments of life in dialogue with others. Story has remained a life-saving form of communion with God and others as I pursue Jesus Christ and God’s message of salvation- from sin, from myself, and from alienation. I hope this story makes some impression of my delight in the divine work of story. Emily

  27. Phil Kosakowski

    Great stuff Jeff!! I really liked all the things that you said about worship. I’ve heard over and over again, and i do believe, that worship is an all day, every day kind of thing, if you will. Reading this really helped me put it all in perspective. The fact that worship isn’t soley based on the music, or other aspects of the “worship service”. But rather, our whole lives and everything we do in them can be viewed as worship. Now like you said, that doesn’t mean that much or such other things can be used in our worship to God. But i just appreciated how you put into perspective that worship is all about the heart. Thanks!!

  28. Noel Wotherspoon

    So you are saying that we should let everything hang out? Something like that? I like the idea. I liked how you described that there shouldn’t be limitations on worship. Well, with the exception of human sacrifice and such. I think people do put certain labels on worship. Things get left out that shouldn’t be.

  29. Jeff Barker

    Let me try to get back on board with some responses to these responses.
    PHIL – worship is indeed spiritual activity, but reading your phrase, “worship is all about the heart” brings to mind the balancing reminder found in the section of C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” in which one demon urges another to tempt the Christian into thinking it doesn’t really matter if you never kneel when you pray because prayer is just spiritual. Turns out it does matter what we do in these bodies.
    EMILY F – your beautiful reverie on the gift of story is a splendid response to Sally’s question just above your post. No the Bible cannot be reduced to the story of good vs. evil, but rather the Bible reveals “the uncertain, beautiful, and weird moments of life in dialogue….” Yes!!!! This is the complex structure of the Bible and of God at work in our lives.
    REBEKAH – I celebrate with you the Mark and Jody’s of the world. It takes people of vision and discipline to craft story into worship. May you follow in their footsteps!
    KAILEN – How can we draw others out of the secret places? With your tender heart, this may very well become one of your life callings.
    KATIE – “It is a good thing that the Old Testament is full of stories.” Whew. Yes. And isn’t it curious that the church can forget that basic fact.
    EMILY E – You ask how Bible stories can help take worship to an intimate level. This is a wonderful question. I hope that this book and our semester together can begin to answer the question. But it will be a life’s journey. May we arrive at the end of our lives knowing that we were people of “The Story” of God.

  30. Jeff Barker

    Noel – Yep. I can’t imagine my wife Karen saying to me, “Whatever you do, don’t get creative with presents. You might just embarass yourself if I don’t care for a blouse you buy me.” While we need a Biblically guided use of worship gestures, at the same time, “It’s the thought that counts.” That’s what I take Jesus to mean when he says the father seeks those who will worship in spirit and in truth.

  31. Becky Sheridan

    Hey Jeff! I don’t have a lot to do in my job as an apartment manager, so I was very happy to see that I can come read your words on story in this blog. It’s been almost 5 years since I graduated from Northwestern, and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life (right now I’m just working and doing the occasional theatre production), but I do know I want my life to involve the telling of stories. You instilled the importance of story in me at NWC, and I can’t wait to read what else you have to say about the subject!

  32. Colin Doughan

    Jeff:

    I am impatient to read more. I almost didn’t comment so I could move on to your next chapter :) I am anxious to see how you bring together imagination and creed into corporate worship. My church loves to sing ancient words – hymns written hundreds of years ago, and songs not yet off the Christian top 40 charts. However not all of the top 40 christian songs make it onto the overhead projector each Sunday at my church. Maybe more should…If I chose the songs each Sunday, some of the latest Christian offerings would not make the cut for worship – some authentic Christian music does not urge me to worship. Perhaps others feel the same. Why am I talking about song while commenting about story? If I were picking the music at my local church, I would not feel bad or awkward about leaving some songs off the song list, I do not know these artists, these artists do not all attend my church. Story is different. It sounds like your goal is for story to be local, communal, and personal. I look forward to discussions about the “how.” How do I evaluate the worshipful quality of authentic experience? Is this even a fair question? All truth is God’s truth. I look forward to being challenged and humbled at my own arrogance towards worship in chapters to come. To God be the Glory in everything.

  33. Colin Doughan

    Jeff:

    I am coming late to this party so you probably already caught this, but there is a spelling oops in Natalie Goldberg’s first quote. I believe the word should be “Learning” not “Leaning”. Trst mee on ths, I am a good spllr.

  34. Paul Patton

    Jeff,

    Just finished the introduction. Strong, very strong. I was especially drawn in by the beautifully delicate story about Paul Sills–a story that should evolve mythically, a sort-of backdrop to our theatrical/performance fears as thespians, evangelists, immobilized by the impact of “someone else’s” glory.

    I’m hoping the chair of our worship arts department can benefit from it.

    A lovely project, dear colleague.

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