78 Pages

Kingdom Stories


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Stories are at the heart of how God’s kingdom is revealed both in scripture and in contemporary church ministry. This volume draws on these kingdom stories to extend the conversation between practical theology and contemporary organizational studies.
Responding to the huge increase in interest in leadership and organisational theory as a means to understanding ministry, Vaughan S. Roberts shows how a more qualitative, story-led approach to thinking about leadership can offer a valuable perspective on ministry for both individuals and churches.



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Published 30 April 2020
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EAN13 9780334059042
Language English

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Kingdom Stories
Telling, Leading, Discerning
Vaughan S. Roberts
© Vaughan S. Roberts 2020 Published in 2020 by SCM Press Editorial office 3rd Floor, Invicta House, 108–114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG, UK www.scmpress.co.uk SCM Press is an imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd (a registered charity)
Hymns Ancient & Modern® is a registered trademark of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd 13a Hellesdon Park Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR6 5DR, UK All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, SCM Press. Vaughan S. Roberts has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the Author of this Work Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. 978-0-334-05902-8 British Library Cataloguing in Publication data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Typeset by Regent Typesetting Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd
The Kingdom is present already, mingling disguised with the untransformed and common life. Evelyn Underhill,Abba: Meditations on theLord’sPrayer, 1940, p. 38
Acknowledgements Foreword by the Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth Introduction
1. Kingdom Stories 1. Introduction 2. Storytelling 3. Jesus and the kingdom 4. A sculpted kingdom story 5. A poetic kingdom story 6. A cinematic kingdom story 7. Churches and kingdom stories 8. Kingdom stories: a preliminary summary
2. Jesus and Kingdom Stories 1. Introduction 2. Kingdom stories and risk (Jesus’ temptations) 3. Kingdom stories and followership (The calling of the disciples) 4. Kingdom stories and typologies (Parable of the farmer and the seed) 5. Kingdom stories and authenticity (Who do you saythat I am?) 6. Kingdom stories and purpose (The cost of building a tower and going to war) 7. Kingdom stories, wisdom and meaning (Letanyone with ears listen) 8. Kingdom stories and discipleship (Parable of the talents) 9. Kingdom stories and trust (Jesus washes the disciples’ feet) 10. Jesus and kingdom stories: conclusion
3. The Church and Kingdom Stories 1. Introduction 2. End of times and engaged eschatology 3. End of life and engaged eschatology 4. The Church and kingdom stories: conclusion
4. One Kingdom Story in Detail 1. Introduction 2. What was the story? 3. What were the outcomes? 4. Why did this happen? 5. What are the implications for ministry and story? 6. One kingdom story in detail: conclusion
Conclusion: Storying the Kingdom 1. A kingdom story 2. How do we identify kingdom stories? 3. Kingdom stories: telling, leading, discerning Afterword by the Rt Revd Professor Christopher Herbert Bibliography and Further Reading
I have always been interested in stories, in how they work as forms of art, as well as how they engage people and organizations, so this project has deep roots. I am grateful to Chris Herbert who was – in Anglican terminology – my training incumbent who not only shared this enthusiasm but encouraged it and has generously written an afterword for this volume. I am indebted to Professor Iain L. Mangham and others at the University of Bath’s School of Management who enabled me to take this interest and turn it into an action research PhD on organizational storytelling in church communities. My gratitude also extends to my friend Professor David Sims who has co-operated with me in much organizational storytelling over the years and kindly collaborated on our bookLeading by Story: Rethinking Church Leadership(2017), which forms the foundation for much that follows here. Parts of this volume have been shared with others. I am grateful to the Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, for his invitation to lead the Coventry Diocese ordination retreat in 2019 and for writing a foreword to this book. Some of the ideas in Chapter 2 were offered to those preparing to be ordained deacons and priests, and I am grateful for their feedback, comments and questions. I am also deeply thankful to Naomi Nixon, Alex Williams, Richard Cooke and the Diocesan Training Partnership for all their hard work that went into making the retreat so enjoyable, and their support for my sabbatical visit to Orvieto and Assisi. Some of the thinking in Chapter 4 has been presented to the Bishop of Barking, Peter Hill, and his leadership team during a residential at the Royal Foundation of St Katherine; with the British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group conference at the University of Cardiff, and the Theology, Religion and Popular Culture Network conference at the University of Kent. I greatly appreciate the opportunities to discuss my ideas with those attending three such stimulating events. In addition, it is right and proper to acknowledge the hard work of all those who were involved in the Warwick Poppies 2018, including the organizing committee (David and Gill Benson, David and Gail Guest, Helen and Tony Fitzpatrick, Carol and Richard Warren), the churchwardens (John Luxton and Gail Guest), St Mary’s church office (Felicity Bostock and Glynis Nixon), Doreen Mills, Kirsteen Robson and all who created the prayer trail, and the wider community of St Mary’s, Warwick, who shared in the project’s joys and frustrations, and all who contributed to the creation of 65,000 knitted poppies. I am very grateful to David Shervington and the team at SCM Press for their support, diligence and hard work in bringing this book to fruition. And to Kirsteen Robson who commented critically and helpfully on an early draft of the manuscript. As ever with a book such as this, close family are also a crucial part of the story even though they have little choice in the matter. The love and good humour of the Leyton family (Becky, Chris, Elijah, Noah and Emilia) and the Roberts family (Jon, Soph and Luna) have been so important to me along the way; as has the enduring love and patience of my wife Mandy.
by the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth
‘The kingdom of heaven is like …’, said Jesus as he began to tell a story. For generations the Church has repeated those stories as it has retold the story of Jesus, setting Jesus and his story in the context of Israel and its story – the story of God creating the world, coming to the world and consummating God’s purposes of love for the world. Christian faith is defined by a narrative. It is a grand, overarching story that sweeps through time and space, making great claims about all that is and ever has been and ever will be. It is also an intensely personal story that, for all its cosmic breadth, touches individuals, families and communities in their locality and ordinary life. We see it in John’s Gospel within its first chapter. One moment we are hearing about the Word who was God and through whom all things came into being. The next we are hearing words spoken by this Word now made flesh, asking two people, ‘What are you looking for?’ Vaughan S. Roberts, priest and theologian, organizational theorist and church leader, inhabits this big story and observes the way people are caught up into it and can find their meaning through it. Through close attention to the experiences of everyday life, especially common life in organizations and churches, Vaughan is skilled at hearing stories and then retelling those stories within the story of God’s abiding interest and involvement in the world. In so doing, eyes and ears are opened to the deep significance of human experience as an arena of the activity of God. Vaughan is Vicar of what is effectively the county church of Warwickshire, and Team Rector of all the parishes in that historic town. It would be easy to become totally absorbed in the round of busyness that such a ministry requires. Vaughan knows, though, that to serve the community to which he was – as you will read later – strongly pulled by the gentle call of God, he needs to find time to think and to reflect, to read and to discern. The fruit of that sort of careful reflection is to be seen in the pages that follow. Drawing on biblical scholarship, on studies of business organization and leadership, on art, literature and music, Vaughan brings us close to Jesus the storyteller and, in the manner of Jesus, helps us to see God at work in everyday life. Readers will be able to see why I invited Vaughan to lead our diocesan ordination retreat in 2019. I wanted these soon-to-be-ordained deacons and priests to be inspiredto read– to read Scripture, to read books of theology and other disciplines, to read the arts in all their forms, in order that they might learn to read better the work of God in the different situations into which they would be sent throughout their ministries. I am grateful to Vaughan for rising to that request and providing that for which I had hoped; and I am delighted that his beautifully constructed retreat addresses have been expanded into this engaging book.Kingdom Storiesgives not only the theory of why story is so important in human life and Christian ministry but also provides worked examples – especially the phenomenon of the Warwick Poppies – of how to tell the story of God at work in lives and localities. It has much to teach us all about how our own stories are part of a bigger story, a story – to return to the story of Jesus as told in John’s Gospel – of ‘grace and truth’. The Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth Bishop of Coventry and Chair of the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission