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  • Writer's pictureStoried Church

Hi everyone (this is Jason speaking) a few weeks ago I sat down with a friend that was well connected in the Mebane area and asked him if he would connect me to some people in the community. He gave me a myriad of names, numbers, and emails and one of them was Gaddy. I never actually followed up with Gaddy but six weeks later I get a message from this guy David Gaddy saying that we should meet up! We have now met a few times over coffee and I am sure we will be good friends and partners as the vision of Storied Church moves forward. You will begin to hear from people in their own words why the vision and values of Storied Church resonate with their story.

I stood in the back of the room as a sixteen-year-old student told his peers, “Your story matters, because no one can deny your story.” He continued that if you are a Christian, share your story about your faith and conversion experience. I stood in the back wondering how far was he willing to extend that thought…

My name is David Gaddy. I am 33 years old. I was a youth pastor in a handful of conservative Baptist churches for thirteen years, eight of that full-time. I have seen, listened, and been part of plenty of stories. I started off as a conservative guy in my early years. There is a strange reality about stories though.

Stories have the potential to change people. They changed me. They could change you too.

The great to challenge to all people is to sit at a table. Maybe your table is laid out with food. Maybe your table is smaller within a coffee shop. Maybe your table is empty, but someone who is trusted is on the other side. The great challenge is to sit and listen.

We move so fast, we have been conditioned to hear what we want, that we rarely just sit and listen to a story.

In my own moments of sitting and listening, I have heard many things:

  • Teens wanting to run away from home

  • A member of a couple wanting to leave a marriage

  • A person revealing their deepest secrets

  • Intense laughter

  • Torrent tears

However, three things happened to me in thirteen years of listening to story after story after story. First, I gained the trust of another person. Why? How? I did not insert my thought or opinion. I listened to their story and experience and took it as is. It is their story and it is valuable. Second, their story drove me to compassion or increased my threshold of compassion. You see people all the time who are completely apathetic to so many things. It is because they are stuck and stagnant. They do not allow a story of any sort to impact them in any way. Compassion breeds vibrancy and vibrancy leads to life. For myself as a follower of Jesus, compassion is key to the whole Jesus thing. The compassion I see Jesus live out, I attempt to live out. Jesus life was pretty vibrant. I want that vibrancy to flow through me. The last thing that listening to a story will do is cause you to do is rethink how you see God working. The Jewish Rabbis call it Shivim Panim la’ Torah (The Torah has Seventy Faces). For the Jews, every generation added their own interpretation to the readings of their sacred books. Their interpretation of how they interacted with a divine source cause others to turn the diamond of their own belief and maybe see it from another face. Someone’s story can do that for you. A story can help you see from another angle.

All you must do is sit…and listen.

The word that most Christian institutions use to describe its service to the community and world is "mission". Most churches take "mission" trips which is typically a short-term trip to another place outside of their community. While others feel called to the "mission-field".

We don't have anything against the word "missions" but we do want to go deeper. We feel it is important to name that most of us who serve others get a "good" feeling when we do something good for someone else. Typically someone that we label as the "less fortunate" or the "needy".

The systemic problem becomes when what we call "missions" becomes more about "us and them". I have wealth, therefore, I can use my wealth to help the needy and the less fortunate. This never solves the underlying systemic issues that caused the problem in the first part. It even assumes that the person in the situation has made some bad decisions in their life and that is why they are in poverty.

We believe everyone is the beloved creation of God and has a story to tell. We want to lessen the divide between us and them. Mission to us means forming deep relationships, listening deeply, sharing stories, and building relationships and community.

I know why most churches would rather give a can of soup to a food pantry and feel good about it. And really that is the much easier thing to do. But it isn't what Jesus did. Jesus went to where people were, listened, and most of all empowered others.

This was the harder way.

Yet we believe the richness and sweetness of life don't come through short moments of serving and mission. But through shared community.

We also don't want to recreate nor work alone as we begin to listen to the stories of those in our community whose voices are silenced.

There is such great work that already is happening in Alamance county. People that are listening well and advocating for people who have no voice. We hope as a church to partner together in the shared beautiful work they have already started.

  • Writer's pictureStoried Church

A few years back I was visiting my family in Niceville, Florida. Each morning my dad and I would go on a walk. One morning we walked past a guy that I knew from my First Baptist Church of Niceville days. He asked what I was up to and I told him I was a pastor. He looked confused, "A pastor?... I am so surprised you actually stuck with the church..."

I like most people have a complicated relationship with the church.

On the one hand I love and loved the church and the community that it invited me into. The church provided a space for me to belong. And that changed my life. But the dark side of the church didn't take long to expose itself... the bureaucracy, the gossip, the politics, the infighting, the cliques, this was also church. This experience of church led to a lot of cynicism and questions of faith.

This cynicism was real and led me to resign from my first ministerial position in my early twenties. I was fed up with the church and it's inner workings that often times protected those who hurt others and encouraged those who had questions or were hurt

by the church to go away silently.

I was resolved at least in the moment to have nothing to do with the church.

I was done.

So I get it when I meet with people and they say they are done with the church. People have their reasons. And those reasons mean something and deserve to be told not quieted. Behind our reasons are a tremendous amount of hurt, bitterness, and questions about the institution and about Jesus.

And I have been there to and still doing a lot of soul work. Bitter, hurt, pained by the church in so many ways. The church has been for me a comforting presence and deeply hurtful.

Even in just my past five years of serving the church I have seen and experienced great darkness within the local church. Yet I am or working through not being bitter or cynical. And I still believe that the church can be much more than some of the hurtful experiences I have had.

Three words have shaped my journey and most likely are the reason I keep staying with the church: "cynics never win." Those aren't biblical words but they might as well be for me. They were words that were spoken by Conan O'Brien at the end of his failed Tonight Show stint. He told his audience on his last show not to pity him and that he would keep fighting and most of all cynics never win. I could become bitter and angry for all the pain I have experienced in the church. It would have been justified. Or I could continue to believe in this movement that Jesus created and began. And so I have tried hard to steer away from being cynical.

I have talked to more people who have had similar experiences of hurt and pain that have come from the church.. They love Jesus but they struggle with the church. I get it. I have been there. And I am there.

Yet what inspires me is their resolve and resilience to be a part of this new vision of church. I can sense the hope in what this dynamic community of people that God has called can and will be.

This morning my prayer reading was, "may we become the church we pray for..." For the next few weeks this will be my prayer. I will continue to be hopeful and confident in what the church can and will be.


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