Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Methodology of Mythology

Go ahead. Send the emails now. I recognize from the outset the danger of using the term "mythology" in this post because most of us equate the word "myth" with "a story that is not true." In the proper understanding of the word, however, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. It is a story that gives meaning, perspective, and understanding to spiritual truths.

I'm finding more and more that mythology can often be a more powerful tool than methodology. Five years ago, when people asked me about our vision and goals for Ebenezers Coffeehouse, I would talk about evangelism and theology and how the coffeehouse model fit into our ecclesiology. Now, I just talk about the guy who came into the coffeehouse to get a drink, went downstairs to investigate the splashing noises he heard, witnessed his first ever baptism service, got plugged into NCC, and then found himself getting dunked at the next opportunity.

Five years ago, when people asked about our free market small group philosophy, I gave long detailed theological proofs for why that particular model fit our discipleship goals and cultural demographics. Today, I just share about how Mary Evans and Dennis Bourne gave kids free art classes that resulted in a benefit performance that raised money for an entire community...and brought families into our church.

One of the most important roles of the small group pastor is to be a keeper of the myths.

Don't get me wrong, the theology and the methodology are important. They are the foundation. But the mythology fuels the passions. The myth brings color and texture and context to the method. Don't underestimate the power of the myth. It may be the most important method you employ.

4 Comments:

At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Doug said...

While I largely agree, it's also important to keep in mind that just because a good story comes out of something, that doesn't mean it's right. The people of Matthew 7:22 probably had some cool stories to tell too. And we see plenty of other religions that can give their own nice stories. But to ensure we're really following God, we need to go beyond stories.

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger Heather Z said...

I don't disagree at all, Doug. Great points. I think our theology and methodology have to be the foundation. But sometimes, we hold onto methodologies that were once working but are no longer effective. If those aren't solid, it doesn't matter how many good stories emerge.

Also, for left-brained "thinkers" like me, we often try to cast vision from that perspective. But vision usually takes hold through the power of story. Which is why Jesus usually told stories or painted word pictures to describe what the Kingdom of God was like.

 
At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Ben Arment said...

This is an amazing, amazing post

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger MusicMaker20003 said...

C. S. Lewis would actually agree with you completely. I had never read (or even heard of) "Till We Have Faces" until the Inklings small group read it a few semesters ago. That book is Lewis' re-telling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. I kept waiting for Lewis to discount Cupid as a "god," or to bring Christianity directly into it, but he never did. He did imply that the Cupid figure was potentially a partial understanding of God, but he never directly discredited pantheism in the book.
I wondered why not. Obviously, Christians know that there is only one God, so why did Lewis write a story founded in pantheistic mythology? It was a means to illustrate spiritual truths in a way that would have appealed to his colleagues at the University, as well as a means to reach even Christians by engaging imagination in addition to logic.

But, I also agree with Doug. There are many, many religions with cool stories. Can we glean some spiritual truths from them? Probably; however, it takes a more mature Christian, rooted in a firm understanding of the nature and character of God, to separate out the truths from the falsehoods in those stories. I know Lewis didn't believe in pantheism. But, a person could falsely draw the conclusion that he agrees there are many gods, from that story alone. Similarly, truths in other religions are usually wrapped around by subtle lies. It takes spiritual maturity, a foundational knowledge of the Bible, and discernment to be carefull not to swallow the lies along with any truths you glean from mythology.

 

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