At my home church, we’re about to start a series of lessons, continuing until May of next year, called “The Story.” The lessons will be based on material published by Zondervan.
Many churches have used this material and had great success with it. We’ve talked to churches around the country, and I polled readers here, to learn from their experiences.
In general, we were told that The Story makes for a great series of lessons if the church really pours a lot of effort into it. If you just buy the material and teach it as written, the results are often fairly unimpressive. But if you put some extra effort in, the lessons can have a huge impact on a congregation.
For those of us who grew up in church, much of the material covered is old hat. I was taught the Old Testament Bible stories from the cradle. However, many of my congregation’s members grew up either unhitched, rarely attending their own church, or attending a church that placed little emphasis on the Old Testament. As a result, many of our members lack the background to understand the thousands of references to the Old Testament in the words of Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament speakers. And, of course, those Old Testament stories (true stories, I should add!) have great value on their own.
And even for those who, like me, grew up in church with an extensive background in the Bible stories, most were never taught how to connect the stories. Many couldn’t say whether Moses came before or after Isaiah. (If you doubt me, give a survey to your Bible class. In most churches, you’ll be astonished at the results.) That is, the Old Testament was taught as a collection of moral tales, but not as an overall narrative.
And the likelihood is that most people who grew up going to Bible classes never covered the prophets at all and have only a passing acquaintance with the wisdom literature.
Therefore, one of our goals is not only to teach some of the key Old Testament passages, but to connect them to the over-arching story of the Bible.
Of course, the problem is that 9 months is just not enough time to do justice to a book as big and grand as the Bible. You could easily do 9 months on Genesis and not exhaust all that is there! We’re going to have to fly low and skip some really great stuff. This will just be an introduction, not a comprehensive study.
Therefore, we’re asking our members to read The Story at home, to study lessons from The Story in small groups, to attend Bible classes where we cover The Story, and to listen to sermons that cover The Story as well. And we still won’t cover all that we’d like to.
In our Sunday morning classes, the adults will study in any of four tracks. There’s one track in which someone plays a Bible character and teaches that day’s story in first person. (I’ve been asked to teach on the Exodus, as the character Yahweh. Really. I’m struggling with my costume. I mean, how do you dress up in thunder, lightning, and clouds of smoke and fire?)
The second track is topical — and designed to be more advanced than the character presentations. These are the lessons I’m writing and posting.
The third and fourth tracks are for parents, one for parents of teens and one for parents of younger children. The idea is to apply lessons found throughout the Bible on parenting.
Classes start in a couple of weeks, and so I really need to get some material written. In addition, I’m expecting to undergo back surgery in the next few weeks, and I rather expect that to throw me behind in my writing. The last time I had back surgery, I wrote some unusually imaginative posts.
I blame the drugs. Which were really quite nice. But I doubt that those in charge of the Bible classes would appreciate lessons written in a narcotic frame of mind.