This is an article I posted on the Equipping Journal webpage of my church’s site. I repost it here because I am a nerd, and if you are reading this, then you are probably a nerd, too.

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Maybe you’ve heard the word “metanarrative” before. It’s a five dollar word that educated types like to throw around to make other people regret they didn’t spend tens of thousands of dollars on a post-graduate degree. (And yes, I’m one of those guys. Sorry.) Metanarrative just means Big Story. It’s the Story behind and above the story. You might say the metanarrative of the Lord of the Rings is the triumph of Good over Evil in spite of human frailty and temptation to power. It’s not just about hobbits and elves and rings—it’s about you and me and the struggle between Good and Evil we find ourselves in every day.

The Bible has a metanarrative. There is a Story behind all the stories of the Bible—behind all the books and poems and laws and prophecies there lies a Big Story that holds them all together. The Big Story of the Bible is just like any other story. It has plot, characters, settings, moods—even occasional pyrotechnics! In order to see the metanarrative of the Bible you have to pull back so that you can see, as it were, the whole Scripture lying open in a scroll before you. When you see the whole Bible you find that the plot is this: Creation; Rebellion; Redemption Pursued; Redemption Accomplished; ReCreation.

Creation

“In the beginning, God.” That’s how the story starts. The first actor on the stage and the first one to speak is God. It all starts with him. He creates everything and calls it good. And then he creates humans and calls them very good. In the beginning, it’s all good.

Rebellion

Well, that didn’t last long. By the time you get to the third chapter of the Bible humans are screwing things up by rebelling against God. It’s not all good anymore. In fact, it’s very, very bad. Now that humans have sinned (which is basically rebelling against God), they have invited death into creation as a consequence. And it’s not long before brothers start killing each other. Things spiral quickly into chaos until God regrets creating humans in the first place, so he sends a catastrophic flood to start over with the only good family left on earth. But, of course, that doesn’t really solve anything, and it isn’t long before humanity is back on the same path it was pursuing before the flood.

Redemption Pursued

Then along comes this old fella named Abraham, and God decides that he’s going to undo everything that humanity has done through this guy and his descendants. Long story short, Abraham’s descendants become the nation of Israel, whom God establishes through their great, triumphant exodus from slavery in Egypt. (By the way, the Exodus is the most important event in the Old Testament, so you would do well to study up on it.) God’s intention is to redeem the whole world from sin and death and evil through Israel. But you probably already know how this story ends—not good! Israel winds up becoming just as sinful as everyone else, so there’s no way that they can fulfill their role as the hope of the world. God’s going to have to do something else—something drastic.

Redemption Accomplished

Jesus. Because the people God chose to be the vehicle of redemption for mankind failed to live up to their end of the bargain, he decided to do it himself. So God sent his son Jesus to become a human. (I know you’ve heard that a million times, but think about it. Think about it again. God. Became. Human.) Jesus came and did what Israel had failed to do—keep their agreement with God. And the thing is, when God became human, we killed him. Jesus was crucified like a brigand or criminal. But then he rose again! He came back from death, and his resurrection is the victory over sin and death that we had been waiting for all this time! The redemption that God had promised would come way back when we first rebelled finally happened in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

ReCreation

But that’s not the end of the story, because now Jesus is busy making all things new—that means me and you. God is at work ReCreating the cosmos, and he’s starting with us humans, the people who sent everything into this downward spiral in the first place. Someday, when he decides the time is right, Jesus is going to come back and judge everyone, and that judgment will be the ultimate act of ReCreation, because when he has judged he will ReCreate everything—not just you and me but the heavens and the earth as well. (If you think our world is beautiful now, just wait until Jesus gets to work and Yosemite Valley is the least beautiful place on earth.) Then he will come down here and live with us for all eternity.

That’s the metanarrative of the Bible. The Big Story. All the little stories are just retellings of the Big Story (Scot McKnight calls them wiki-stories), and the Big Story is what holds them all together. And now it’s our turn. It’s our turn to find ourselves in the story (hint: we’re in the ReCreation part) and tell wiki-stories of the Big Story, and to live out the implications of the Big Story so that the world can know that there really is a Storyteller behind and above it all.

I’ve been reflecting on Adam McHugh’s book, Introverts in the Church, and the ways that we (Introverts & Extroverts alike) spiritualize and idealize our personalities. We make our own personality traits, and the spiritual gifts often associated with them, the norm or preferred method of expressing our faith.

For example, I’ve often found myself in church contexts that spiritualize extroversion. What I mean is that the gifts and skills normally associated with extroverts are held up as the paradigm of spiritual maturity. These gifts and skills are evangelism, mobilization, and networking. Along with the gift of preaching, these three gifts/skills are the primary lens through which evangelicals view spiritual maturity and the qualities they look for in “good” leaders.

If you can walk up to a total stranger and strike up a spiritual conversation with them, then you have engaged in evangelism and are spiritually mature. If you can mobilize a large number of people to a certain task, then you are a leader. If you have a large circle of friends and know how to network well, then you have a large sphere of influence and a good candidate for church leadership.

This paradigm needs to be challenged because it is far too narrow. Extroverts, like introverts, are limited, and their personalities and gifts are not the only (or even the best) qualifications for spiritual leadership. Confrontational evangelism can often do more harm than good. Sometimes people don’t need to be mobilized, they just need to be heard. Being able to network is a good quality to have, but it can sometimes leave people feeling more like commodities than humans.

My point is not that extroverts are bad. Far from it! (I married one, after all.) Nor is my point that evangelism, mobilization, and networking are unnecessary. They are very important, and I’m convinced that I find myself in these contexts because I need to learn to do these things better. But they are not crucial for church leadership nor indicative of spiritual maturity. We have spiritualized extroversion and made the personality traits and natural gifts/skills of extroverts the paradigm for Christian leadership. There’s nothing about 1 Timothy 3 that points to extroverts over introverts as ideal candidates for church leadership. We need to move beyond personality and gifting and see character as the true qualification for spiritual maturity.

I occasionally do some design work. I’m not saying it’s good, I’m just saying I do it. But I found this video to be very inspiring.

Graphic Design: The Forgotten Web Standard – Slides in 3 Minutes from Carsonified on Vimeo.

This past Saturday morning I went to my very first book sale! While in seminary at Gordon-Conwell, my friends would often invite me to the Christian Book Distributors (CBD) book sale, but I was too lazy to ever go. But this past weekend I had no excuse except to sleep in, and since my kids wake me up at 3:00am and 6:00am every day, I’m now physically unable to sleep into the 7’s.

This particular book sale was the bi-annual Augsburg Fortress Press sale where you can get hardcovers for $2 and softcovers for $1. That’s right, you can purchase the N.T. Wright New Testament trilogy for a grand total of $3. I think I paid somewhere north of $100 for these books in seminary.

Needless to say, the book sale was epic. I bought 45 books for 50 dollars. Let me blog that again for emphasis, this time in all caps. I BOUGHT 45 BOOKS FOR 50 DOLLARS!! The treasures included:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer | Ethics ($2)
Walter Brueggemann | Theology of the Old Testament ($1)
E.P. Sanders | Paul & Palestinian Judaism ($1)
Robert Stewart | The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan & N.T. Wright in Debate ($1)
Richard Horsley | Jesus in Context ($1)
Brevard Childs | Old Testament Theology in Canonical Context ($1)

Yes, I realize that this makes me a huge nerd. But I’m okay with that. You can have my lunch money, just please don’t take my books.

In my back yard there is a mighty birch tree, nearly 100 feet high and 20 feet around at the bottom. The top half is white as the snow, and it gleams like a bleached limestone obelisk against the cloudless blue sky. It’s leaves are beautiful (though they haven’t budded yet) and hung on to their lofty branches late into the autumn months. It is one of my favorite trees in all the world.

It stands not 20 feet from my house, and so it poses a danger to my family should it ever fall. But it’s roots are strong, shooting straight into the ground like the steel and concrete anchors of a suspension bridge. It has survived, unscathed, the hurricane that struck Ohio two years ago, so I don’t worry about it toppling from the wind.

But there is a grave danger, posed not by the massive height of the tree, but from a humongous weed that has sprouted up not two yards from the giant birch. To nearly everyone, this huge weed appears to be a perfectly healthy tree. But it is not a tree. It is something else entirely. And it threatens the life of the tree and my family. You see, this disgusting, disease of a plant has shot its roots directly toward the beautiful birch, threatening to kill it from beneath the surface.

Though the weed is a mere shadow of the birch, it is life-threatening. It must be cut out, uprooted, before it turns the good tree into an instrument of death and destruction. The weed is itself a perversion of a plant, and it is trying to turn the birch into a perversion–an object not of beauty, grace, and majesty, but of chaos, danger, and death.

The weed has grown up in the shadow of the birch, unhindered and unchecked. It is often counted among the trees in the yard, though it is only an impostor. The weed must be killed. It must be fully removed. Its roots must be cut and untangled from the roots of the birch. It’s branches must be hacked off and cut into tiny pieces. It’s stump must be pulled from the ground. This is hard, tedious work, though the rewards in the end are worthwhile. When the weed is gone, the birch is free to grow to new heights, unthreatened by the strangling and perverting roots of the shadow tree.

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