EDITOR’S NOTE: Baptist Press today begins a 10-part series of articles on Bible Storying, appearing each Friday, the first of which is published today. These are adapted from the book, “A Bible Storying Model,” by J.O. Terry.
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Bible Storying is the intentional use of complete stories (not interrupted) that are used to share the message of salvation with persons who cannot read. As these stories are presented the emotion and the drama of the event as well as the actions and spiritual truths of the narrative are preserved.
The Bible is a book of stories. Estimates vary between 60-70 percent narrative format with the remainder being teaching and meditative. The Bible is a story which is the story of God and mankind’s relationship. The stories link together and move toward the focus of God’s provision in Christ for restoring the broken relationship because of mankind’s sin. The Old Testament stories provide the needed preparation for seekers as the stories explore the matter of sin and need for forgiveness.
The stories provide a widely acceptable way of describing the characteristics of God, those of the natural (carnal) man, those of Jesus as both sinless man and the sinless Son of God, and those of the born again believer whose sins are forgiven and what God expects of believers.
The Old Testament stories deal with the issues of the authority and sovereignty of God (why we are accountable to God), the broken relationship due to sin beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing through their descendants (our ancestors), God’s judgment of all sin with punishment for sin, but provision for escaping punishment if one obeys what God says to do, and God’s promise of an Anointed One to suffer as a substitute sacrifice for man’s sin. The Gospel stories share the fulfillment of prophecy in the coming, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus who returned to the Father when his ministry on earth was finished.
The stories of Jesus are built upon the earlier stories in the Old Testament. The Old Testament stories provide a foundation for understanding the implications of the story of Jesus. The Jesus Film makes much more sense to viewers if they have some understanding of the Old Testament background leading to the story of Jesus.
For many religions which do not have the Old Testament background there are many mythical accounts of how man came to be, while others have no account at all of beginnings. So there is little or no understanding or acknowledging of accountability to a God who is sovereign because He alone is Creator and sustainer of the world and all its people.
For others there is a faulty concept of sin. In one culture it is said to be a “sin to call a person a sinner!” Those in that religion do know that sin leads to loss of peace. Another major religion looks upon sin as only a shortcoming due to one’s ignorance of God’s commands. Sin can be “balanced out” by doing good works so that at the soul’s judgment the balance will tip to the good side. And further, it is popularly believed their Prophet will somehow help the faithful to cross the bridge narrower than a sword’s edge into Paradise. Others believe in virtually endless cycles of reincarnation where the succeeding life is better or worse depending on what one does in the present life. The adherent hopes one day to escape the endless cycles of suffering and achieve a state of lasting peace. Still others trust in a time of “purifying” in a limited punishment before going on to eternal bliss. Some define sin as bad things like murder or robbing a bank. If one has not done such things, then one is not a sinner and therefore not guilty. More attention is given to ancestors who must be honored and served by the living with offerings and material things to ensure one’s continuing blessing and freedom from trouble.
Most of the world’s major religions are both propagated by stories and maintained by stories told by leaders and attributed to their religion’s founder or other ancestral teachers.
The use of Bible stories enables people to understand who the true God is and how they can have a relationship with Him through His son Jesus Christ.
J.O. Terry is publisher of the Bible Storying Newsletter and the Journal of Bible Storying. He was media missionary in Asia with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board from 1968-2003. Daniel R. Sanchez is associate dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Scarborough Institute of Church Planting & Growth. Two books that can provide valuable information about Bible Storying are:
— J.O. Terry, “Basic Bible Storying,” Church Starting Network, 2000, www.churchstarting.net.
— Daniel R. Sanchez and J.O. Terry, “Bible Storying for Church Starting,” Church Starting Network, 2007, www.churchstarting.net.