by Steve DuPlessie
So first, Why are we doing this 31-week project using The Story as a Bible study tool together? Actually there are four answers to that question, Why?. Answer number one: We’re doing this to learn more about God; to learn more about God and his grand narrative that’s written out for us in the stories of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
The second goal is unity. By doing this study together on every level at GNBC—with the children in GNKids, with the students in Youth Ministry, with adults in mid-week Life Groups, and here in the Sunday sermon series—we’re including everyone, unifying the whole church family, moving in the same direction together; literally everyone’s on the same page at the same time.
Third, we’re doing this because every level is focused on the same part of the story each week, adults can easily engage their kids, their teens, and each other: “So what did you learn from that?” And use that as an opportunity to engage whole families in a conversation about God, and his word, the Bible, week by week during this series.
Fourth, to do this project together, we’re going to use a tool to help make the Bible accessible to everyone, including seasoned saints who in fact may never have read the whole Bible, and … total neophytes, just beginning to figure out what the Bible is all about.
USING THE STORY AS A BIBLE STUDY TOOL…
So the tool we’re using in this project is called The Story—it’s an abridged, chronological Bible in the NIV version that reads like a novel. There are no chapter-and-verse references, and the Scripture segments are seamlessly woven together with some transition text into a single grand narrative in 31 chapters; each chapter around a particular story in the Bible. For those intimidated or overwhelmed by the un-abridged Bible, The Story helps people understand God’s Word more fully and engage with it more easily, leaves them hungry to read the whole thing.
See, many people have never read the Bible. It seems intimidating: Qhere do I start? If I start in Genesis 1, it starts out interesting but then it seems to bog down and I can’t really figure out what’s going on. If I start in the NT, Matthew 1, I immediately get buried in a long list of genealogies with some names I can’t pronounce, and it doesn’t seem to make any sense.
Face it, the Bible can be intimidating, even to those who want to read and understand it. I won’t embarrass you by asking who has actually read the whole thing. Most people read, and then they re-read, their favorite Psalms, or maybe Romans or Ephesians or Philippians, or a favorite chapter or some favorite verses, or whatever their daily devotional tells them to read today, most of us don’t spend a lot of time in Leviticus or Lamentations or Revelation—and that’s like reading only a part of a love letter, you get some of the story, but not the whole story.
And the division of the Bible into chapters and verses makes it easy to find your favorite chapter or verse, but it actually makes it harder to understand the whole thing. It’s like I gave you the first Star Wars DVD, told you to skip ahead to one hour and 7 minutes, and then expect you to understand what is going on. Just not possible.
See, the chapter and verse divisions weren’t part of the original Bible. The original epistle or letter to the Romans was intended to be read the way you read any letter, from start to finish; not reading chapter 8 today, chapter 9 tomorrow, and then chapter 10 when you remember to pick it up again. But that’s the way most of us read the Bible, a chapter or two a day, or a section of verses at a time. Not only do we miss the bigger picture, but we can easily misunderstand something, sometimes seriously.
So you need to remember those chapter divisions were added as a convenience by English Archbishop Langton around the year 1220, over a thousand years after the NT was written, 900 years after the church fathers confirmed which books were actually scripture. And the verse divisions? … they were added as a further convenience for his customers by an English printer of Bibles, Robert Estienne, in the year 1551, more than 300 years after the chapter divisions were established. So for most of its history, people have read the Bible as a continuous story, not just their favorite chapters or favorite verses. But we’ve lost that sense.
So this book, The Story, it doesn’t replace your regular Bible. It’s just a tool, a tool to help you read the Bible as a continuous story. It’s not a complete Bible; it’s an abridged Bible, not unlike a pocket NT that some of us carry, or the Story Bible I read with my kids at bedtime every night for years. We called it a Bible, for the kids, knowing that it didn’t contain every word of a full Bible. So we’re going to use this tool, an abridged Bible, without the normal chapter and verse divisions, to help us get the narrative of a full Bible.
I’m expecting that some of you—some who have been in the Word for many years—will be excited to be encouragers as we try to introduce kids, students, and adults to God’s story using this book as a tool. Actually, it’s not really much different from the daily devotional tool you might already use every day. Some of you use Our Daily Bread every day as a devotional guide, knowing it’s not really the whole Bible. Some of you use Spurgeon’s excellent Morning and Evening devotional, some faithfully use Oswald Chamber’s classic, My Utmost For His Highest, and some use Jesus Calling by Sara Young. They’re helpful tools, but they don’t contain the whole Bible and they surely don’t replace the Bible.
BRING YOUR BIBLE WITH YOU…
So I want you to bring your regular Bible with you every Sunday. Take notes in your regular Bible here every week. There’s a Bible Reference Chart inserted in your Program this morning to show you which actual Scriptures from the NIV translation are included in each of the 31 chapters of The Story. And you can read the rest of the chapters, the ones not on the Reference Chart, if you really want to get the whole text.
One good feature of The Story, which reads like a story, is that it’s … chronological. It puts the Bible readings from the NIV translation in the order they happened. So the story of David from I & II Samuel includes the Psalms that are appropriate for that part of the story. The life and ministry of Jesus is a compilation taken, in chronological order, from all four gospels. And the ministry of the Apostle Paul integrates the history chapters from Acts with the appropriate chapters from Paul’s letters. I think the narrative format of The Story … will encourage you to sit down with a cup of coffee and read an entire unit, including many chapters from the Bible—not just a few isolated devotional verses from the Bible—in one sitting.
So the hope of the elders is that you will get excited—like we are—about reading and understanding the Bible, and getting to know God’s incredible narrative of redemption and reconciliation in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, from the beginning to the end.