Here at New Leaf, we find stories essential. We want to connect you to stories that you will find encouraging, and we want to know your story.
Have you ever been in a conversation, telling a story and your conversation partner interrupts your story with a story of their own? While some people get into a bad habit of doing this, and never really listening to the stories around them, in most conversations we don’t even notice when this happens because it’s just how conversations unfold. Before long a chain of stories that reminded someone of something led the conversation to a whole new place. My favourite conversations are when one person’s risk to be vulnerable and this leads to many people in the circle sharing what is really important in their life right now.
Have you ever wondered why this happens? Why is it so natural for human beings to influence conversations with narrative? I think it’s because stories birth more stories. By sharing narrative, we connect with people around us as they connect the experience of the other with their own. It’s the longing we all feel to know that we are not alone.Stories feed the longing we all feel to know that we are not alone. Click To Tweet
The bible is full of stories. Church history continues the practice, filled with stories and parables and narratives. In the eighteenth century, John Wesley knew that stories evoke more stories when he was leading a renewal movement. As he traveled around encouraging new communities of people who gathered together to share spiritual life, he would often pull out letters with spiritual narratives as encouragement. I picture him connecting with people, getting caught up and then as just the right moment, he reaches into his pocket and introduces the story of someone near or far, as encouragement.
When I was doing research during my grad studies, I unintentionally stumbled upon historical narratives that became the centre of my work. I started following historical rabbit trails of narrative, piecing together the lives of new friends in the eighteenth century and learning from how they described encountering God. As I was working, I discovered this gem, a published letter of spiritual narrative from of Mrs. E.M. to John Wesley.
On May 3, 1757, one [man] was speaking of two persons that were made perfect in love. While he spoke, God said to my heart, ‘This is what thou wantest: without it thou canst not be happy.’ From that day my convictions were exceeding great… But I believed, ‘He has done this for many. He may do it for me.’
Mrs. E.M. was able to imagine a new reality of spiritual experience because she heard a narrative of transformation. Her heart stirred and she longed for her story to be shaped by this story that she had heard. The letter goes on to tell of how she encountered God and was transformed. And it all started by hearing the story of others who also shared that experience, and hearing the Spirit of God speak through this story. Story has so much power to encourage and transform.
If you know the story of the New Leaf Network, you know that we are still a young start-up organization, but as we continue to grow and discover our identity, more and more it becomes obvious that story is central to what is going on in the network. At a recent meeting where we discussed the present and future of the network, a few phrases about story ended up on the whiteboard:
the ‘Canadian Story’ is being told
unapologetically one person’s story, yet the ‘big idea’ of church planting is expressed
telling stories of people who are trying to address the problem (facing the Canadian church)
Part of what this revealed to us, is that story is very important as we move forward. Our podcast tells new stories each week from the Canadian church, where something new and innovating, or even small and meaningful, is going on. This blog seeks to put words and thoughts to the experience and challenges of the Canadian church. And all of the in person New Leaf events help people connect with others who share the same story.
So, if you have a story to tell, or you know someone whose story needs to be shared, we want to hear it! Message us!Go on our facebook page and connect with us and the network, come to an event and share a piece of your life with others around you.
Lean into the story of what God is up to in Canada. We need your story, too!