Exactly Human Sized Stories

Last year I went to a story telling workshop by Ira Glass, host of “This American Life” and in my opinion, the finest story teller alive today.

His goal:  find stories that are exactly human sized.

I think this is exactly the challenge for modern preachers.

Our media thrives on sensationalizing and caricaturing, (The recent Charlie Sheen spectacle being an obvious example.)

Ira Glass challenges us to not fall into the media trap, which produces cynicism in its viewers, but rather to find stories that are exactly human sized.

every day people.  extraordinary stories.

I love that.

I think our Christian media has fallen into this exact same trap.  Some current best sellers challenge us to be sensational, but do so in an abstract, undefined way. They also caricature the global church as a super holy group of uber Christians.  They then compare the caricatured global church to an equally caricatured American church as being apathetic and lazy.

No doubt, the American church is lazy and apathetic.  Its the natural consequence of a culture that gives us everything we want over a long period of time.

But the global church is no picnic either.  I’ve worked with pastors in Kenya, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Mexico.  None of those pastors describe their churches as healthy, let alone an example of uber holiness.  In fact, I have bonded quickly with pastors in developing countries when we realize that our discipleship challenges are freakishly similar.

What people at our church are most hungry for are not abstract, sensational challenges, or caricatures, but concrete examples of everyday people following Christ.

Exactly “God through human” sized stories.

I pastor a suburban, predominantly white middle/upper class church.

My hairstyle hasn’t changed since I was 13, my translucent skin color would not look good  tattooed and I haven’t pierced any part of me intentionally.  Once in a while I even drive a minivan.

Yes, I am the most uncool pastor in America.

Thank you for continuing to read 🙂

The truth is, I LOVE our church.  LOVE.  IT.

Its because our people are unflinchingly honest and open.  They genuinely respond when given a concrete challenge.  When invited to step into faith and sacrifice, they overwhelmingly respond. When challenges abstractly with some sensationalized approach, they look puzzled.

Meanwhile, they spend their own money and vacation time to visit a global partner.  They arrive there with no agenda other than to serve and bless.   They work hundreds of hours to fund raise for a family battling cancer.  They spend huge money and put themselves through timeline hell to adopt a child.  One of our children gave up his 7th year birthday party gifts so people would donate to our Kenyan partner.

In short, They discover the miracle of “God working through even me!”

I wish Christian publishing would focus on these sorts of stories because I think sharing these, “exactly God through human sized” stories help our people put flesh and bones on discipleship much more than the caricature and sensational approach that sells books, gets coverage and ultimately keeps discipleship undefined and unattainable.

What do you think?

3 Replies to “Exactly Human Sized Stories”

  1. I loved those Ira Glass interviews. And I absolutely agree with finding human-sized stories. In fact, we’ve stopped calling them life stories and now just call them interviews.

    The challenge still remains on making the story engaging. As Ira said, all stories are fighting to be cr@p. It takes the involvement of a story teller to serve the person telling the story and the people hearing the story.

    Thanks for the post. I’ve subscribed!


  2. Hi Justin,

    great to hear from you and I agree – this is indeed the biggest challenge. I often do the interviews for our videos and struggle to get content out of people while the camera is rolling! (so many times, the best content is provided in an off the cuff conversation!) Still, I marvel at the power of showing our church God@work through “everyday people.”


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