Storying Scripture is a Scripture engagement practice that is used all over the world. Storying Scripture is the process of helping people discover the truths of the Bible through listening to and discussing the stories of the Bible.
In storying, a teacher tells a Bible story by memory to a group of people. The listeners then work together to retell the story back to the teacher as best they can. Next, the teacher repeats the story until all of the listeners have the story in their memory. The group then discusses the story and relates their own lives to the story (see the “5 Questions” sidebar for examples of discussion questions). After the storying process is over, each person who has memorized and discussed the story together is encouraged to share the Bible passage with others, in a sense becoming walking, talking Bibles.
Part of the power of Storying Scripture is the listening process. Have you ever noticed how often the Bible uses the word “hear” but how seldom it uses the word “read”? (See the “Selected Verses on Hearing God’s Word” sidebar.) Bible scholars tell us the Bible is really a book designed to be listened to, not to primarily be read by an individual (which wasn’t even practical until the printing press was invented and Bibles eventually became more plentiful).
Storying is a particularly powerful means of engaging Scripture because it happens in a group setting. Storying cultivates interaction among the group members as they come together to try to retell the story and then discuss how the passage intersects with their lives. It also provides an opportunity for group leaders to see into the hearts of group members. As group members share what stands out to them and relate the biblical story to their lives, the group leader can understand more about their spiritual lives. Storying also keeps the leader from completely dominating the discussion. The leader is an important facilitator, but the focus of the group is just where it should be—on the Word of God.
If you’d like to watch how the Storying Scripture process works, you can view a video example on BibleGateway.
The Bible as Story
Perhaps storying Scripture is so powerful because the Bible is full of stories; some biblical scholars calculate that the Bible is 70 percent stories. Jesus was the perfect teacher, and he taught through stories. He answered people’s questions with stories, he explained what is true through stories, and he condemned the Pharisees through stories. Stories were a way that Jesus shared his life while he was on earth and how we can come to know him now.
It can help us to engage the Bible if we see this special book as a story with many parts that all come together into one understandable whole. The Bible is God’s story of redemption. It is a unified, coherent narrative of God’s ongoing work within his kingdom (God’s rule/mission in the world). The Bible is not to be read as a jumble of history, poetry, lessons in morality and theology, comforting promises, or guiding principles and commands. Instead, we are to connect each individual part (each proverb, song, letter, prophecy or parable) to the bigger story. Every part of the Bible must be understood in the context of the one storyline: God redeeming all things back to himself through Jesus.
By saying the Bible is a story, we are not saying it is make-believe. It is a story because it has plot, characters, and authors.
One way to think of the plot of the Bible is to think of it as one large story (metanarrative) portrayed as a drama/play in six acts. These acts are:
- Act One: God Creates the World
- Act Two: Rebellion in God’s World
- Act Three: Israel’s Mission (fails)
- Act Four: Christ’s Mission (succeeds)
- Act Five: Church’s Mission (Christians carrying on Christ’s Mission)
- Act Six: New Creation
The Scriptures tell us the story about what is real and important in the world, a story that is much bigger than our culture tells us. One way to look at the Christian life is to ask, “Whose story am I going to believe—the story of my culture or God’s story as found in the Bible?” Come to the stories of the Bible and learn who God is, who we are, what we are to be living for, and what is good and beautiful. To learn more about the Bible as a six-act play, watch the timelining video on BibleGateway.
With all the options available to God for communicating with us, why did he give us the Bible with so many stories in it? Here are just a few reasons why stories are so powerful:
- Stories are how we get to know one another. When meeting someone new, we don’t tell general facts about ourselves; instead, we share our stories. The Bible is God telling us his story, revealing himself to us so we can encounter him and know him. The Bible is a revelation of God.
- Some say that stories are the best way of talking about the way the world actually is. Stories are the chief way human beings make sense of their experience. When something important happens to us, we immediately turn that experience into a story so we can give it meaning and share it with others.
- Stories invite us to participate. By engaging our imagination, we find ourselves in the stories, connecting with our emotions and our thoughts. Stories call us to action.
- Stories span all age groups and create bridges across cultures. We can relate to the biblical stories because those people lived in a world full of messy, sinful people with the same issues that we struggle with today. Stories allow us to interact with people and events from the past and from varying cultures.
- People seem to crave stories. It’s why we read books, watch movies, and get excited to tell others what happened to us at the store last week. We love stories because we live in one. Each person lives his or her own story and watches others live theirs. They are the fabric of our lives.
At times, we hear that the way to grow as a Christian is to “pray and read your Bible.” Yes, but what about the person who isn’t a reader? What about oral learners? It is estimated that oral learners (people who learn better through listening instead of reading) make up over 70 percent of the world’s population. Oral learners include not only people who can’t read or write, but also those who don’t prefer to read or write. There are many literate people who prefer to learn by oral means because they are not only oral learners, they are oral thinkers. Oral thinkers tend to understand things relationally, learning by observing and imitating. This is different from literate thinkers who are more idea-based, linear, logical, and analytical in their learning. Both ways have their benefit and, as members of Christ’s body, we need to meet the needs of both.
Though Storying Scripture is not just for oral learners, it is particularly effective with oral learners. Storying Scripture lets the oral learner hear the Scriptures and talk about them in community, just the way they learn best and really, just the way Jesus taught while he was on the earth.
Storying Scripture is a simple, powerful, and communal way to engage with Scripture. Sometimes we make the process of diving into the Bible too complicated. Reading and openly and honestly discussing the Bible with others will, over time, change lives. This is a Scripture engagement practice that should be tried by everyone.