When John Stonestreet and I wrote “Restoring All Things” in 2014, the hardest part was deciding what stories to put in and what stories to leave out. We were looking for stories of Christians making a difference in their communities. We found hundreds of them, and it soon became evident that there were thousands. Although we crammed more than a hundred into the book, we had barely touched the tip of a magnificent iceberg.
Since the book was published, John and I have encountered hundreds more stories that—if we were writing Restoring All Things today—would be candidates for inclusion.
Take, for example, the story of Charlotte Rescue Mission. Executive Director Tony Marciano believes any attempt to help the homeless that does not include a strong spiritual component is destined for failure. The statistics bear him out. The vast majority of people who go through addiction rehabilitation programs relapse soon after leaving the program. But Charlotte Rescue Mission’s success rate, while nowhere near 100 percent, dramatically exceeds that of secular programs. Why? Marciano told me:
“If you could use one word to explain what we do, it’s transformation. We work from the inside out. We don’t work from the outside in. We’re not looking at the symptoms of what causes them to self-destruct. We want to know why they’re doing it. At the root of an addict is what we call a shame-based identity. Shame says, ‘I am wrong. I’m defective. If you knew me, you wouldn’t like me. If God knew me, God wouldn’t like me.’ Unless they deal with that shame-based identity, that person will continue to self-destruct over and over and over again. Why the gospel? Why are we a gospel rescue mission? Because it’s the power of God’s unconditional love that is found in Jesus Christ that really can crack through that shame-based identity.”
In “Restoring All Things,” John and I told stories, like that of Charlotte Rescue Mission, because stories have the power to change both minds and hearts. Jesus taught his followers with stories. In fact, Mark 4:34 says, “He did not speak to them except in parables.” My friend (and Wilberforce Weekend 2018 speaker) Andrew Peterson is fond of saying, “If you want someone to hear the truth, tell them the truth. If you want them to love the truth, tell them a story.” Damon of Athens once said, “Give me the songs of a people, and I care not who writes their laws.”
That’s why every Friday, my end-of-week column will include stories of Christians who are engaged with God in the great task of “restoring all things.” These stories will address one or more of the four questions at the beginning of Restoring All Things:
- What is good in our culture that we can promote, protect, and celebrate?
- What is missing in our culture that we can creatively contribute?
- What is evil in our culture that we can stop?
- What is broken in our culture that we can restore?
I already have dozens of such stories, but we can never have too many. The world is hungry for them. And in a society that is at best apprehensive, and more often antagonistic, toward Christian ideas, the credibility of the church often depends on such stories. James 1:22 tells us to be not merely hearers of the Word, but doers also. These kinds of accounts provide evidence of the doing to a watching and skeptical world. Stories proclaim that we Christians are ready, willing, and able to practice what we preach. And they provide examples and encouragement for others to go and do likewise.
So if you know of people and ministries that deserve a wider audience, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t promise you I’ll use every story. But I can promise you I will consider every idea, and respond to every email. The late Robert Webber, an influential teacher, writer, and theologian who spent much of his career at Wheaton College, once said, “The most pressing spiritual question of our time is this: Who gets to narrate the world?”
Let it be us. Let us begin now.