Kevin Ford in his book "Transforming Church" says that one of the symbols that holds the "code" of an organization is its myths. It's important to note at this point what a myth is and is not. A myth is not a made up story. It is not necessarily fictional. Tolkien reminded Lewis that the Christian story was like all the Nordic myths and Greek myths that he so loved. Only in this case, the Christian myth is real - an actual historical event. A myth is, of necessity, large - exceedingly large. Part of the reason is that it is trying to capture the truth or truths of human experience on a universal scale.
When a church examines its myths in order to try to understand its codes, it is looking at stories that represent a deep seated reality for the organizations. Stories can carry a lot more meaning than a simple mission statement.
An example of this comes from my former congregation. If you would talk to the people who were part of the work in the earliest years, one of the stories you would hear is about our nomadic existence. We worshiped in 7 locations in two and a half years. We went from a high school chapel, to a multi-purpose room at an elementary school, to an outdoor amphitheater, to a YMCA aerobics room. Each move meant communicating excessively with others about where we were and where we were going. We grew in every location. (Most significantly in the aerobics room because the mirrors on the wall doubled our attendance every week!) The stories abound about this wandering time of our church's history.
Our next to last move was an unfortunate decision to move to our church's property and worship outside for what we thought would be six weeks. It turned into sixteen weeks. People will tell you of holding Sunday School on blankets in the dirt. Of setting up the stage on the corner and all the beach chairs. Mostly, people remember bracing themselves against the Santa Ana winds that, like a good fish story, get more powerful with each telling. (By now they are certainly gauged as hurricane force winds!)
This is one of the myths of Trabuco Presbyterian Church. What does it say about the church's code? Well, deep in its "dna" the church learned to value telling others where they were. The church grew as a result of word-of-mouth communication. Long after we stopped moving this was still true. If you were to ask those members what story in the Bible they most identified with it would be the story of the Exodus. They were God's people wandering in the wilderness. Deeply rooted in their "dna" is the idea that God will sustain them. God didn't bring them into the wilderness to abandon them but to prove his faithfulness to them. My guess is that they are a remarkably resilient and resourceful congregation in their heart.
One of the remarkable aspects of this myth is that they can see their own story as part of God's larger story being written in the world. TPC can write their own story as part of the meta-narrative of the world God is in charge of.
What TPC takes from all this is up to them to discover or remember. But by remembering the stories, they can get in touch with God's provision and believe into the future based upon what God has already done among them.
All churches have their myths. They reveal both the character of the church and the character of God. In re-telling the myths, you can get at the "Code". For churches like TPC, the wilderness is not a daunting place, or at least it should not be. God is with them.
Our myths of our lives can do much the same. They tell the stories that reveal our character and also the character of God in us. One of the things we get to do as Christian people is to help others see where God is at work, past and present. We get to come alongside individuals as well as churches and reveal the Great Narrative or Myth that is the Christian story and show how our lives and the lives of others fit into that Myth. This Story is our reality and it has much to tell us.