First Third Conversations

A Night at the Movies

By Dr. Terri Martinson Elton, Director of the Center for First Third Ministry at Luther Seminary

Any weekend I see a movie is a good one. Dramas, comedies, action-thrillers, musicals, historical pieces…you name it, I love a good movie. My weekdays are full and demanding, so being transported into a story for a few hours on a Friday night, with my husband and a Diet Coke, and I’m good! Sure, sometimes the story is far-fetched and I need to stretch my imagination, other times the story is so true to life it scares me, but most often I’m simply happy to be invited into someone else’s world for the night.

Stories have power, even in this media saturated, information age. In fact, perhaps stories have an even more important role today because we live in a media saturated, information age. Watching the Oscars last night, I was reminded how each of the winners were first and foremost powerful storytellers…be they actors, videographers, editors, screenplay writers, or composers. And it’s clear to me, the art of telling good stories, regardless of the content, is as needed today. Really good stories do more than entertain, they have the potential to ignite meaning and transform lives.

We, as people of faith, have a story to tell. Yet, I wonder if we are willing to give our best – imagination, creativity, skill, energy, and resources – to cultivating the art of telling our story. As best I can tell, it takes all those things and more to cultivate stories. But it also takes something else - a passion or drive regarding the story itself. So, what is driving our storytelling?  Getting more people in the pew? Passing on biblical or theological knowledge? Or transforming people’s lives? Listening to the acceptance speeches last night, the “winners” were not driven by fame or fortune, but by some deep commitment or belief to telling THEIR particular story. The vision that telling THEIR story would impact the world, or the listener, was a critical part for making the story they’d tell come to life.

While I love movies, I love the Christian story even more. And I believe people in our world today long for the story of redemption and hope the Christian story offers. My hope and prayer for Christians today is that we might reignite our passion and drive for cultivate the art of storytelling among us and the world. And we might rediscover our commitment to tell the world about God’s creative and redemptive love.

- Terri

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Terri Elton is passionate about young people and their families, and loves the church. No really! She's our Associate Professor and teaches with an eye toward developing leaders and leading change.

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