Someone made a statement to me the other day that stopped me in my tracks. I believe the statement was their sincere assessment of a particular situation. I’m confident that my friend wasn’t trying to deceive me. I’m even more confident that my friend wasn’t lying or intentionally trying to misrepresent a situation. Again, I believe this friend was just offering his sincere understanding of a particular situation. Here’s the problem: the statement the person made just wasn’t true. It didn’t accurately describe reality in any way, shape or form. It was a false narrative.
There are lots of false narratives in our culture today. Every day we must sift through the multiple stories being told from every direction to be able to discern what really reflects reality. Here are just a few of the false narratives that I’ve heard:
“One-half of all marriages end in divorce.”
“People just aren’t committed today like they used to be.”
“This church wouldn’t survive without me as the pastor.”
“Young people aren’t interested in spiritual things.”
“We would do more to reach people but there aren’t any people here who need reached.”
“The church in North America is dying.”
“Things aren’t really any different today than they were when I was a kid. All these folks will eventually settle down, have kids, drive mini vans and come back to church just like we did.”
I could go on and on, but some are just too offensive to put into print.
False narratives come about because of a variety of reasons. Sometimes people don’t have enough information or they have inaccurate information and that allows them to formulate false narratives. Sometimes people have accurate information but don’t have an accurate assessment of that information (No one came to our church outreach effort and that leads us to believe that people aren’t interested in spiritual things. Perhaps they weren’t interested in your turnip pie eating contest and it has nothing to do with their lack of interest in spiritual things?). There are times when false narratives emerge because someone is intentionally trying to mislead others – we see this throughout our political landscape today (on both sides of the aisle). False narratives are a part of our culture.
Here’s the deal. We all are prone to believe false narratives.
I think most of you are familiar with the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18-19. In this narrative, Elijah makes the statement three times “I’m the only one left.” Now, to be fair, he had a good reason to feel that or believe that – Jezebel was going to great lengths to put the prophets of God to the sword. Elijah had a target on his back. He was facing pressures that most of us haven’t faced and had good reason to believe he was the only one left. The problem is this: it wasn’t true. It was a false narrative. He had bad information or his assessment was wrong. God informs Elijah that there are 7,000 in Israel “…whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” In reality, he wasn’t the only one left. He was believing and living into a false narrative. He didn’t have an accurate assessment of what was really going on.
Max DePree says “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” Leaders help define reality. Leaders have to be able to cut through the multiple false narratives that we’re all prone to live into and offer an accurate assessment of our current reality and how to best follow Christ in the face of that reality.
What are some of the false narratives you’ve been believing that you need to own today? What do you need to do to get an accurate assessment of reality in order to obediently follow Christ as you seek His kingdom and His righteousness?
How is God whispering to you like He whispered to Elijah? What do you need to see differently today because you’ve been living into a false narrative? How do you help those whom you serve identify and reject the false narratives that they’re prone to believe? Let’s deal with reality instead of living into the false narratives floating around out there.