We Thrive in Community

When I wrote Lessons from the Sidelines, I knew that I wanted to share a variety of stories from many women who went through a journey of clarifying their calling because no two stories would sound the same. I knew that as I shared the amazing lessons each woman learned that future readers would connect with their stories just as I had throughout my own life.

Jesus understood the power of stories. He used parables to help people remember the principles he was trying to prioritize teach during his years of ministry with the disciples. The parable of The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, The Divided Kingdom, The Weeds and the Wheat, and The Parable of the Lost Sheep all create evoke emotion as we read them. The gospel writers even noted that the people listening were emotional. The gospel writers occasionally note the emotional state of people listening to Jesus’s teachings.

In Luke 15 the Pharisees and teachers of the law were bothered by Jesus’s willingness to welcome tax collectors to a meal. The following parable is that of the lost sheep. I wonder if any of the Pharisees understood the significance of Jesus’s choice to tell that parable in that moment.

Our Bodies are Designed to Respond to Stories

Scientists have been studying how our bodies are impacted by stories and have discovered that our bodies release different hormones as we listen to stories. As a character is sad we release the stress hormone cortisol and as we empathize with someone we produce oxytocin. Philip Perry says, “Stories can literally transport us into the mind and body of a character. They can move us toward empathy or action. Nothing has the power to inform, change our minds, unlock our potential, or transform us and our society in the most powerful and profound ways. Now, we’re starting to unlock the neuroscience behind this and learn exactly how they impact us.” 

When we connect with a story 80% of people will go on to follow up with action. In this example, a compassionate story about a dying child inspired those who heard the story to donate money to research for child cancer.

We Thrive in Community When We Share Our Stories

In Acts 2:42-47 the first church was established after Pentecost. These new believers established a simple routine:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)

Acts 2:42-47 NIV

The disciples were relying on one of Jesus’s last conversations with them to guide their routine. Matthew 28:16-20 is considered The Great Commission. Jesus gives the eleven disciples a specific instruction for after he leaves Matthew 28: 18-20 says:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

emphasis added

Jesus reminded the disciples to share his stories with the people they encountered. He knew people would boldly follow him if they understood his character. He also understood that the best way to help others clearly understand how much Jesus sacrificed for us would occur when the disciples shared stories about their personal experiences of their time with Jesus. As the growing community of believers would feel intense pressure and persecution from Rome, they would need the support of each other and the reminder of why they were clinging to a new belief system. Their convictions to follow the one they believed was the the one true God would be the cause for their death.

But they saw the disciples heal people and they saw a church that lived counter culturally to the government. A place where all were welcome, where everyone was cared for, and where equality under God was the goal was attractive. So their numbers increased daily. (Acts 3-4)

When the Church strives to function as the Church we all thrive because we learn from each other and we learn through each other’s stories. As we share our stories our community bonds grow closer and we become more willing to serve each other. It’s how God created our minds and bodies to function. Let’s thrive in community by taking time to hear each other’s stories more frequently.

Curious to Read the Stories I mentioned? Buy Your Copy Here

Lessons from the Sidelines front cover final

As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.

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