Tell me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narratives by Scott McClellan
Every human being yearns for a story to tell and to listen to a story that bears some significance for their lives. In his new book, Tell me a Story, by Scott McClellan, the author takes us on a journey into his own story and the larger narrative we find in the Bible. We get all the elements of a great story here; pain, joy, conflict, resolution, and anticipation. Yet, we also get to seat right up front near the stage to see the story of the Bible being laid out for us through the pages of Scripture. What is most inviting and refreshing about this book is the way Scott weds his own story, including adoption, into the larger narrative of Scripture so that we as Christians can find our place in the story. We are not left with a story that happened years ago to an ancient peoples or a story for one family but the story that we can resonate with because it shares with our own experience the different shades of life.
Scott draws us into the book by recounting his family’s story about seeking to adopt a baby girl in Vietnam. He writes, “As you might imagine, the tone of our blog changed after we signed that waiver. At times we were frustrated with the whole thing. But we were still hopeful, and we kept returning to the assurance that we’d felt led to start this journey” (17). The joy finally came as they held their baby girl from Vietnam in their arms. Yet, as Scott notes, there was a community of people walking alongside them at every point, in grief, in joy, and in finally receiving their bundle of joy. It is this kind of community that enables us to tell our stories without fear and anxiety.
In the first chapter, Scott targets the manual approach to the Bible or mere principles approach that so many churches provide. Scott writes, “But for all their good intentions, these principles rarely compel the kind of life change they promise” (26). Why is it that principles, even alliterative ones, fail to produce change in the body of Christ? For one, it’s comfortable and convenient for us to have everything wrapped up in a Power Point bow. Yet, though our minds might remember the points more easily, our hearts are left dead on the spot. Stories captivate our minds and hearts like nothing us because they take our gaze away from the doldrums of life into a new way of seeing things. The movements of characters from one point to another (29) engages our senses that something dramatic and life-altering is going to happen, just you wait and see. Even more, stories have a way of staying with us, teaching us truths beyond propositions because they inhabit our thought life in a way that changes us. We see God using the story of his own redemption of Israel in giving the Ten Commandments, we see Jesus telling stories to speak of his coming again, and we see stories as a bridge to faith in Paul’s writings.
There is powerful witness in telling a story. The witness is only as good as the veracity of his story. As it is written in the Scriptures, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (101). The disciples were compelled to tell the story of Jesus because they were changed forever by Him. As we tell stories of His work in the world, we witness to the Story that has been going on since the creation of the world.
I really enjoyed this book and its message about story. I hope many will pick it up and revel in the story that God is shaping in their own lives.
Thanks to Moody Publishers/Collective and Janis Backing for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.