About a month ago I picked up a new Samsung Galaxy S phone. It was my first really smartphone and it has had a radical impact on the way that I consume and search for information. Suddenly I have all of my email, facebook, and twitter with me wherever I go. When I get a new email I check it immediately and move on. I can check out what my friends are doing on Facebook and update the world about what I am eating on twitter. This isn’t even mentioning the traditional ways of staying connected with texts and actually making phone calls*.
What fascinates me most about the phone is the fact that I now have every bit of information that Google has to offer right in my pocket. I carry around what basically amounts to a database of all of the information in the world everywhere I go. As these phones and devices become even more ubiquitous that fact will have a profound impact on our development as a society. It will no longer be important to memorize facts, or even really know them for long. What will become immeasurably more valuable will be deciding which pieces of information are reliable and figuring out how to find those reliable bits of info when you need them.
With this shift comes a new challenge for churches. Bible classes are important and memorizing the Bible will always be a valuable discipline. But when you have 15 translations in your pocket knowing the exact location of important verses looses some of its necessity.
To this end I think that churches need to become better at telling stories and getting people engaged in the Bible and in God not as a list of facts**, but as a story, a good story actually, that can be consumed as story rather than digested as simple facts. When we engage people with story we encourage them to go looking for more, to dig into the vast stores of knowledge that they have at their fingertips and discover the truth that lives in the stories.
Right now at church we have picked back up our storytelling series and are working our way through the New Testament. Tonight was the first night and although it took a while for the students to warm up there it is neat to see some students who are historically reserved engaging with the story in ways they never do with a lesson.
Stories are what gives us context for the facts. Stories help us to apply the truth to our lives. Stories move our heart and soul. In a world where everyone has facts, lots of facts, it is cool that the Bible isn’t just more lists of facts, but actually a story.
*The biggest complaint I have with my phone is for actual calls. When the screen is on and I go to receive a call it is very easy to hit the ignore button instead of the answer button and then there is no way to get back to the call. Very frustrating.
**Of course with all of the information in the world there is a wealth of misinformation and it is important the church teach people the truth found in the Bible. Facts are vitally important. The church should be a place that teaches truth and also teaches the skills needed to discern truth for yourself.