To know and be known is to love and be loved. We are made for one another.
From the dawn of humanity it’s been clear that we’re meant for one another. We’re built for relationship, for community. We define our lives by our relationships, we group ourselves according to affinity, background, tribe, taste. And that’s fine, but when we group in exclusivity, or we divide based on differences everyone loses.
At Story Church we recognize that the thread that holds community together is shared story, shared experiences, shared life. Socrates famously said, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” we believe that the isolated life, no matter how well-examined is a poor substitute for health.
When we share our stories, our experiences, and our lives, we naturally grow closer to one another and we naturally create a healthy social network. But it takes work. It takes intentionality. It takes integrity. And, it takes a focus on becoming, together, the best versions of ourselves.
So, we focus on Uncommon Integrity and Depth in Disciple-Making. Uncommon Integrity means that we’re real to a fault. We’re just gonna lovingly tell the truth, the good bad and ugly. And we’re going to create a healthy, safe space for others to do the same.
Depth in Disciple-Making gets into our wiring, our purpose, our unique design, and how we all function and fit together. We believe that the most important thing we can do in community is help one another become the people that God designed and intended for us to be. That means celebrating our differences and learning how we complement one another.
It’s been said that an authentic community is one that understands how to celebrate and to commiserate with one another. We do both with integrity, and with a bent towards forward movement and progress in our individual and corporate lives.
“Don’t design a church that attracts people. Design a church that attracts God and He’ll attract people.”
- Chris Hodges
At Story Church we believe that a healthy church is a spiritually vibrant church. Here’s why: we believe that the presence of God is active, effective, and powerful. Scripture teaches us that where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty and freedom, that we are changed in His presence, and that’s a good thing. The Church as a whole, and Story Church specifically, exists for two main reasons: 1. To worship and love God, and 2. To love and care for people.
There are lots of ways a church can express vibrant spirituality, but for us there will be 2 specific expressions that drive everything we do.
- Pray First – Before we act, we pray. It’s that simple. And in everything we do from services, to small groups, to sermon series, to calendar rhythms, to phone calls, to decision-making. we’re going to pray first. This is personal and corporate reality and it’s our first priority. Scripture teaches that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor do so in vain.” We believe that and we want God’s purpose and presence to fuel everything we do.
- Passionate Worship – We believe that God is worthy of our focus, attention, admiration, trust, and love. We believe that He inhabits the praise of His people. In other words, He’s with us, He’s present. Jesus promises to be with us throughout the scripture and the presence of Holy Spirit is more valuable than anything else. His presence in our lives, in our homes, in our relationships, and especially in our gathered meetings is fundamental and critical. Scripture says that we love, because He first loved us.The way He loves us is extravagant and passionate so our right response is to be fully present and to give our best back to Him in the way we worship.
It should be noted that “worship” is much more than the songs we sing when we are gathered together, it’s the way we live our lives, it’s the way we treat our friends and loved-ones, or the people we encounter on regular basis. It’s the way we do our jobs, it’s the way we treat widows and orphans. In short, our lives are a sacrificial act of worship and we want to give God all that we are to the best of our imperfect ability.
People are beautiful and made to make beautiful things together
Art is important. Period. And we believe the Bible teaches that truth. In fact, we believe God is an artist. Maybe better put, God is the artist. Think about it. The fact that beauty exists in the world, and that we have the capacity to not only recognize that, but to also form preferences and opinions and even create our own pieces of creative expression says something about who God is. A lesser god could have created a purely pragmatic cosmos. A world which simply functioned and worked. A mechanism by which life took place and things got done, but in a purely pragmatic, mechanical sense. Sounds pretty terrible.
But that’s not the world in which we find ourselves. Because that’s not the God of creation. The God of the Bible, the God of creation, the God who created the heavens and the earth, who knows the stars by name and numbers the hairs on your head, is the same God that created wind, and moon, sea and shore, mountains, trees, butterflies, music, sunrises & sunsets, food, sex, and our ability to perceive, experience and participate in those things. Our senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, our emotions, our capacity for learning and growth, and problem-solving are gifts. That’s all part of the Imago Dei. In other words, it’s in us, because it existed first in Him and he put it in us too. On purpose.
The first people described in the Bible to be filled with God’s Spirit were artists and craftsmen. The way that God created the Garden of Eden, the world, His Tabernacle and Temple, the way He created relationships and the human mind all speak to the artistry of His character. And He asks us to participate in creation, to participate creatively as one of the ways that we worship Him and interact with Him.
We see the beauty of creation, the beauty of humanity in all her many splendid colors, stages, and capabilities as 1. evidence of the Imago Dei, and 2. as expressions of God’s creativity.
With that in mind, at Story Church, we value the aesthetic. Our music, our decor, our physical spaces, our virtual and digital expressions, and the way we look at one another must reflect that. God is an artist, and we want to create space for the artists in His community. We want to highlight artistic expressions of our body and treat them as expressions of worship.
We also want to value all people. The term “diversity” intrinsically implies division. We believe there are differences between us. But those are expressions of creativity, nuance, and beauty, not fault lines by which we divide. In a soundbite society, in a culture that too often looks for absolutes in the wrong places, and even in the Church where we have taught to divide along lines of minor details rather than uniting under the essentials, within that context, we want to be a place that values nuance, mystery, creativity, and beauty.
Art matters, and you are a masterpiece.
God is generous and hospitable. We should be too.
Here’s the thing. God really, really, really loves you. He wants good things for you. His character is generous, hospitable, kind, sacrificial, and grace-filled. He created us in His Image and as such, we are bearers of the Imago Dei, and carriers of His presence.
In other words, we’re meant to share the goodness of God with others. We are blessed. We have been given incredible gifts. But those things we never meant just for us. They are meant for us, but they are also meant for others. God’s plan is for us to be a blessing to others, His plan is for us to be carriers of His goodness and kindness and love for others. For us to love one another like He has loved us.
At Story Church that looks like generosity and hospitality. It looks like believing the best in others, it means treating others as better than ourselves, and valuing EVERYONE. EVERY PERSON regardless of ethnicity, background, economic, immigration, marital, legal, or social status is a carrier of the Imago Dei and as such, carries intrinsic, incredible, sacred worth. It means we want more for people than from them. It means that all life is sacred and immeasurably valuable, and the life we’ve been given is a gift that’s meant to be given away.