How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe, when he performed his signs in Egypt and his marvels in the fields of Zoan (Psalm 78:41-43).

I could go further in making the case for the importance of story telling and being story-formed, but these should suffice for now. It should be noted, however, that the acts performed were not only stories to be told but songs to be sung. Take the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 or how many of the Psalms (Bible’s hymnbook) were written to tell the story again and again (e.g., Psalm 78, Psalm 105-107).

The Practice

This emphasis of story-telling in Scripture is intended to make the case that we are a story-formed people. In the same way God’s people in the Old Testament were formed (literally) by the Exodus from Egypt and shaped by the remembering and retelling of that event, so too are God’s people in the New Covenant to be formed by the Exodus through the Cross of Christ and be shaped by remembering and retelling of that event.

Of course, the story is broader than the Exodus and the Cross of Christ (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration), but everything seen in this story points forward or backward to the world-transforming event of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The question we must ask ourselves is: How important is telling the story of the triumphs of Christ and being shaped by it? How necessary is being story-formed in our disciple-making? 

I’m convinced that being story-formed is far greater in importance than we have considered it to be. Discipleship tends to focus on practical how to’s and doctrinal categories, which I would argue are important. But I don’t see God telling His people to test folks on doctrinal precision. Rather, what I do see is God setting up for His people in both Old and New Testaments ways of being shaped and formed by the redemptive events that are retold by God’s people. Why the Lord’s Table? We are to remember regularly through eating bread and drinking wine our own Exodus from Egypt through the blood of the Lamb. The remembering is experiential, not just doctrinal. It should shape our identity and govern our lives.

I said earlier this year that I believe discipleship could simply be stated as the process where the story of the gospel rewrites the story of our lives. The more I read and understand how God raises up His children, the more convinced I am that such a brief definition could not easily be exhausted. In all our disciple-making, dear friends, let us be remembering the Story.

Tim Brister is a pastor and elder at Grace Baptist Church. Find out more on his blog: Provocations and Pantings.