Stories are the best aren’t they? They allow us to feel the depth and spectrum of emotions simply through the power of words. They help us learn, and relate to others and our world.
Listening to story is an activity we are inclined to enjoy. So, it is not coincidence that faith is passed on from one generation to the next verbally. We “tell” people about the life Jesus. In other words, we are recounting his stories to others as the disciples recounted them to us.
Deuteronomy 6 commands we always “talk” of the Lord with our children. Listening to stories engages the brain in a myriad of ways that can illicit emotional, cognitive and spiritual responses. Anyone who has heard a compelling story in the middle of a sermon will always recall the story before they recall the main points. If you are someone who has been entrusted to pass faith down to the next generation and fail to share the story then you will create a generation who knows about Jesus but don’t know him personally.
My earliest recollection of enjoying church as a student was when my 1st grade teacher Mr. Lukens read me the stories of the Bible from his Bible. I loved this form of story time. It seemed like a break from the hideous flanograph puppet shows and cotton ball sheep. In reality, It was simply a different form of learning. It was learning by story. The New York times wrote a great article on this in 2012.
One of God’s great gifts to humanity is that he revealed himself in story.
When you think about the best movies, books, plays, musicals, songs they are all based around listening to a great story. It’s why Johnny Cash and Kanye are amazing artist. They capture the stories of their experiences. Listening to their lyrics brings about a sense of deep connection, but also teaches us important sociological information. It helps us relate to them, know them, and share experiences with them. We can feel a deeper connection to artist who tell stories than we do our own family members, or even to the God who created us and who wants us to feel deeply connected and intimate with him. Why? Because through their stories we know them.
Through the complete story of the Bible we know God. His heart, character, and desires.
One of the great disservices that students in our churches experience today is that we have taken the curriculum and lecture approach to teaching the Bible.
We teach information. Anyone can learn and regurgitate information. Just ask any kid in Sunday school about Noah’s ark and you will get data driven information. It rained 40 days and 40 nights, animals in 2 of every pair etc… Generally, they are told the information of the story, but are not told the story from the “adult” Bible.
When we remove parts of the story they get the pieces we deem important, when the entire story is what God deemed important.
It’s possible to know the facts, and never know Noah when we don’t share his experience. Without the story and we can’t understand his culture. We won’t learn anything about God’s person or why God flooded the earth or how is heart was grieved and how his wrath was pouring over to match his justice, but how his mercy prevailed to ensure humanity could still be reconciled to himself and not forever dead in their sin.
I always resonated with this quote by Donald Miller,
We don’t teach stories, we tell stories. The Bible is not just information to be taught. It is stories to be learned from. Stories that help us relate to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and humanity’s as well as our own condition. Without the whole story we run the risk of bringing the next generation dangerously close to missing Jesus.