A couple of weeks ago I met with my supervising professor to talk about the direction of my Masters program. We agreed that I would spend this semester doing Independent Guided Study which basically means that within a set word count we set the parameters of the paper(s). The topic we settled on in light of my vision for planting a faith community was Narrative Theology. I am in the process of writing a 2,000 word book review of "The Nature of Doctrine" by George Lindbeck followed by a 7,000 word paper on Narrative Theology where I will intersperse stories from the taxi with theological reflection.
As I have researched this topic and the whole concept of how we do evangelism and how we interact with our stories and the stories of unchurched people I have found some intriguing material. A fascinating website is The Tangible Kingdom. This is the project of some people in Denver who wanted to connect with unchurched people. You can get a preview of the book by following the link at the bottom of the home page.
What is interesting me is that there is an untapped mission field in our urban communities of people who have a story to tell and are interested in our story if they are given the space to share their own journey. Last week I picked up a young man from a party. He was probably in his late 20s and looked fairly street wise. He wore a hooded top which in Newcastle at the moment is often a sign of a gang-type mentality. As we drove to his home the topic of my life outside taxi driving came up and I mentioned that I was an ordained Baptist pastor and my idea of a faith community.
We had about 10 minutes to go to our destination and he said "So what can you tell me about myself in the time we have left?" I didn't know quite what to say so he continued, "Is it okay for me to be out on the piss on a Saturday night?" I said that I didn't want to make any judgments but sometimes people got drunk to escape the realities of life at which he tapped his head and said "I have plenty of demons up here." He went on to briefly tell me that he thought there was more to this world than what we could see and he thought there might be something that I would call God.
As he hopped out at his house he asked for my phone number and said he would be interested in talking more about my project and more about God. I am a novice at this so don't hold me up as a model of narrative evangelism but I am finding that as I show a genuine concern and interest in people they soon open up to discuss faith and spirituality. Each person is a complex web of stories that have been knit together over a number of years and we need to be careful not to impose our values or our narrative on them too soon. As I listen and engage I am finding that unchurched people open a door at some point and invite me to find a point of connection with my story and their story. This is the heart of the project I am working through at this time.