Here at Norman Kennedy Presbyterian Church, we have just completed a great year of reading, studying, preaching, teaching, and talking our way through the Bible using Zondervan's The Story resources. A year ago, our session discovered and reviewed these helpful resources, and committed to improving our congregation's biblical literacy in 2013 by following The Story. In brief, The Story is an abbreviated, chronological, easy-to-understand version of the Bible that is written in narrative format (in continuous paragraphs without chapter and verse numbers). The Story gives an account of who God is, and of His plan to rescue and redeem His people. Its 31 chapters of selected scriptures and brief commentaries cover the Bible's main events and themes, telling the greatest story ever told!
The Story Resources
Our congregation embraced this program in many ways. Most Sunday morning worshippers purchased either the book or a set of CDs, and read one chapter per week. Each week's sermon was based on the reading. Since each chapter covered large sections of Scripture, selecting a specific story to preach on was both a challenge and a delight.
We also used The Story as our Sunday school curriculum. One elder, also a Sunday school teacher, remarked: "The Sunday school material was easy to use, and loved by the children. There were lots of activity choices, and the accompanying DVD provided illustrations of each chapter and totally captivated the kids."
Throughout the year, two small discussion groups met biweekly to delve deeper into the Bible with questions, reflection, and discussion. On numerous occasions someone would interject, "I never knew that before!"
Collectively, our greatest learning probably centred on the concepts of Upper Story and Lower Story. Max Lucado and Randy Frazee (co-pastors of Oak Hill Church in San Antonio, Texas) explain that each stage of history, including our own, has an Upper Story (what God plans and does) and a Lower Story (what plays out in the lives of ordinary people). According to an elder who hosted a study group in her home, "The concept of God's Upper Story interacting with our Lower Story encouraged us with the awareness that God can and does use us to further His purpose. This awareness grew week after week as we discovered how God used the patriarchs, kings, and prophets to accomplish His great plan."
It seems that many folk – even those who have gone to church all their lives – now have a better grasp of the biblical narrative and of how all of the Bible stories fit together. We also have a fuller understanding of God's love for us and of the lengths He will go for us to know and love Him. For that outcome, I praise God!