Are We Teaching Too Many Bible Stories?

Are We Teaching Too Many Bible Stories?
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What’s your story?

If I were to ask you that, what comes to mind? For many of us, we begin to construct a short biography in our head. Where we come from, what our history is, how we got to where we are, what is happening in our life, what we think the future might hold. An overview of our life, an overarching narrative or succinct summation.

I doubt very much what you would share first would be the memory of your first bicycle ride or that time you fell out of your desk in middle school or the day you got promoted at your new job or when you got an A on your final exam. Those were all momentous occasions and probably formational in making you…you.

But those aren’t your story. Those stories are part of your story.

As I get to know you, I’d probably hear about all those other important moments. But if I were introducing you to another friend, I probably wouldn’t include any of them in my introduction.

So why do we do that with God?

We are masters at telling children stories about God but when it comes to telling God’s Story, we can fall short.

We love to tell them all kinds of wonderful Bible stories like David and Goliath, Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the Whale and Jesus and the 5,000. These stories make up the bulk of our Christian children’s books and Sunday school curriculum. It’s not unusual for children’s ministers to ask, “What are the key stories children need to know before they move into youth group? And how can I tell them in new, exciting ways?”

And those stories are PART of His story.

Important parts. Formational parts. Necessary parts.

But those stories get their meaning, find their place, and add the most value when they are told in the context of The Story, what theologian N.T. Wright calls “the metanarrative of Scripture.”

In their book The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen share that individual experiences make sense and acquire meaning within the context of some story we believe to be the true story of the world. We need a large background story to ground us because when “people don’t know the whole story…they get the parts wrong” (Dr. Catherine Stonehouse).

Everyone has a metanarrative.

For Christians, Scripture is the metanarrative.

The Story tells us WHO God is. It tells us our place in The Story. It takes the disjointed stories of Scripture and weaves them into a beautiful seamless tale of perfect love created, thwarted, rescued and realized. It is God’s story as Creator, Father, Savior, Son, Friend and Spirit.

To tell the stories apart from The Story can leave us with moments rather than perspective. These powerful moments are essential to rounding out The Story and helping us know God better, but without the context of The Story, we can reduce God to a God of moments rather than the God of Eternity.

Written into each of the moments is the bigger story of God’s Love calling us back to a perfect love relationship with him. Even the moments we don’t write into curriculum like David and Bathsheba, Ananias and Sapphira, and Jacob and Tamar, we can see a bigger picture of sin, redemption and God’s unchanging nature of love and justice.

In context, the stories matter because they are more than moments; they are parts of a greater whole.

Recently a friend of mine shared with me that her grandfather, 85 years old, had begun to question his faith. After a stroke had left him in a place of needing care from others, he had time to really critically think about what he had heard in church his whole life. As she visited with him, he explained his frustration over the disjointed and seemingly discontinuous nature of the Bible stories he’d heard over and over again and how they had no relevance to his life.

One day it dawned on her; even though he’d been in church his whole life, he’d never heard The Story. So one afternoon she and her sister sat down with him and for the very first time, her grandfather heard The Story of God’s perfect creation, our separation because of sin, the reconciliation of the cross, and the invitation to us to join The Story for all eternity.

It changed everything for this 85-year-old man. For the first time, he understood the context. He saw what joined it all together.

He heard The Story of God…and it changed everything.

I believe it can…no, it will…do that for all of us too!

There are some really great resources out there that share some of the familiar Bible Stories in the context of The Story.

One of my favorites for younger kids is The Jesus Storybook Bible.
For older elementary kids, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is a great way to tell The Story in the form of an analogy.
For older teens and young adults, The Circle Trilogy (Black, Red and White) by Ted Dekker also tells The Story also in analogy.
If you want to tell The Story in the context of Easter or Christmas, here are two versions that use four simple symbols to bring the metanarrative to life.

This article originally appeared here.

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Christina Embree
Christina is wife of Pastor Luke and mom to Hannah, Naomi, and Caleb. She has been serving in ministry since 2010, first as a director of children's ministry and now as a family minister near Lexington, KY.

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