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BIBLE STORYING, Article 5: limitations of Bible storying

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of 10 articles on Bible Storying being published by Baptist Press and Baptist Press en Español. The series, which is appearing each week in BP and BP en Español (www.bpnews.net/espanol), is adapted from the book, “A Bible Storying Model” by J.O. Terry. To access the BP story collection thus far of this series, go to bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=183.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Among the limitations of Bible Storying: It takes time, especially if many stories are used and the listeners are given an opportunity to participate in the storying session.

There are many stories in the Bible; one list of popular stories includes 150. Yet not all of these are needed for witnessing. Some stories are better for certain peoples, while some are best not used until a people become more mature in their faith and can receive the stories without reacting negatively against the Bible and its message because of their misunderstanding the stories.

Stories take time to prepare and learn. This is a problem for the occasional Bible storyer, one who is preparing to go on a mission trip and will only be with a people a short time.

What can be done?

Normally we suggest that an understanding of the target people’s worldview be undertaken to give clues as to which stories are definitely needed and which ones might best be skipped for the time being. We need some hint of how many stories are needed to bring people from where they are in their spiritual condition in order to have an opportunity to understand who Jesus is and why we must accept by faith what Jesus was sent to do.

However, we can take a shortcut of sorts if we consider what we call a list of core Bible stories (see Article 4 in this series, LINK). These stories cover the basic biblical truths leading to salvation. The list can be enhanced to cover some of the issues needed for certain worldviews.

You, the storyer, will be in the best position to pick up clues as to what the people are not understanding or having difficulty in accepting. Simply add more stories with related teaching themes following the same pattern of crafting and telling, or make story substitutions to ones which seem more appropriate as you get to know the people better.

It is important that the listeners perceive the stories as being linked together as part of a larger or continuing story. So where there are gaps, as when skipping over stories for the sake of brevity, careful bridging must be done to maintain the relationship of the stories and their continuity.

This is not difficult to do. Sometimes it is enough to say “after a long time had passed….” At other times the relationship is maintained by carrying forward a character such as Abraham, or one of the promises of God, or prophecies looking forward to what was going to happen at some future date. Summary stories also can be used to connect events when there is not time to go into all the intervening stories. The Joseph story, for example, could be summarized to connect Jacob’s stories to those of Moses.
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. J.O. Terry, who is cited in the Editor’s Note, is publisher of the Bible Storying Newsletter and the Journal of Bible Storying. He was a media missionary in Asia with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board from 1968-2003.

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  • Daniel R. Sanchez