Bible storying is a tool that US churches need to incorporate. This is not the first time it has been discussed on the blog, but I want to point out why it is a helpful tool. There are many uses for storying in your local church, and today I am going to step back and talk about why.
I am a firm believer in the Great Commission as the organizing statement for the church’s mission. The commission is found in multiple passages at the end of multiple gospels, but for argument sake, let’s take a look at the one in Matthew.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28:18-20).[/pullquote]
There is a lot to the commission given here, but the central imperative of the whole is to make disciples. Discipleship lies at the heart of the church’s mission. This, of course, happens when we share the gospel with unbelievers and the Spirit changes their heart. It is also an ongoing process that occurs throughout the life of every believer. Discipleship is a process that starts before a person’s conversion and runs throughout the end of their life as they continually conform to the image of Christ.
If this process stands at the center of our mission, then Bible storying has much to offer your local church as a key component of any evangelism or discipleship strategy. For some reason, we relegate the idea of Bible stories to two places: overseas missions and our children’s ministries. They are excellent tools in both of these arenas, but they should get more play than that.
Let me explain why:
The Bible is a story.
To be precise, the Bible is a macro-story, or a metanarrative, that is really a series of many smaller stories that all fit together to tell one, overarching storyline. This is, perhaps, one of the Bible’s most fascinating features. Written by dozens of men in multiple locations across the Mediterranean over the course of multiple millennia, and yet it tells one, unified story of the whole world from start to finish. Pause for a minute and think about that.
Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen call the Bible the “True story of the whole world.” I like that language. The Bible is, in fact, a story. Over 60 percent of it is told in narrative form, and even the parts that are not fit into a larger story. However, it must not be confused with fiction, as it is a true story. Every word, every theme, every plot movement is real… more real than the story you have in your head about life.
Even literate people like a good story.
There is just something about a good story. We watch the excitement on a child’s face when we read them a good story. For some reason though, we start thinking we are too old, or maybe too sophisticated, to talk about the Bible in that way. That is nonsense. One only has to look to the box office to realize we are still captivated by a good story. Grown men will stand in line for hours just to watch the next installment of a good epic trilogy.
Stories have the rare ability to both affect and instruct. They teach us facts, but they also grip the heart. The Christian faith is more than a list of propositions. It is more than a science, and the Bible is more than a frog to be dissected. Perhaps the reason our discipleship seems so flat at times is because we reduce the Bible to concepts. Stories allow discipleship to stimulate the brain and stir the heart.
Disciples are more than learners, they are actors in the story.
This is where it gets real cool. When we realize that the Bible tells the true story of the whole world, and that it is still going on right now around us, then we begin to see that we are not onlookers but actors. We are not simply reading this story, or hearing this story, we are a part of this story.
Bible storying done well demonstrates the participatory role we play in the unfolding narrative of creation. It is not just a list of “dos” and “don’ts.” Certainly, making disciples means teaching people how to live according to the Scriptures, but it should also mean teaching them why they should live that way. Storying gives the discipler an advantage in this regard. When stories are taught, internalized, and put into the broader context of the whole narrative, they guide ethics and purpose.
Let’s stop pretending we are too big for Bible stories and let them have the sway over us that they should. After all, God chose to reveal his word in story form so much of the time. Perhaps, we should take that into consideration the next time we want to teach it to people.
Feel free to contact me if you are thinking about using Bible stories for discipleship or evangelism. I have resources and would love to hear ideas from others.