When we started Pathways Church, one of the first teaching series was a sixteen week look at the narrative story of the Bible, from Genesis and into the present. It was a fun series to develop and work through, but the most fun part was the feedback we got, which was very positive. Pathways mostly had people who had grown up in church, but had disconnected at some point before finding their way to Pathways. For so many of them, as we worked through the series, they were seeing all the pieces fit together for the first time, and each story held greater meaning as it was fit into the larger picture.
The North American Evangelical church that I grew up in, and have served in for the last 40 years, seems to do a good job of teaching Bible stories, but not of teaching the Bible as one big Story. There has been a new emphasis that way in the last decade, and a I welcome it. I tend to be one who sees the larger picture and how pieces fit together, rather than one who dives into the small details. And while the small details are important at times, they lose meaning when they aren’t wrapped in the bigger picture.
Unintentionally, but perhaps guided by my interest in seeing the whole picture, I read three books last year that serve as an overview of the larger story of Scripture. The first was A Walk Through the Bible, by Lesslie Newbigin. It’s a short book to serve as a general introduction to the Christian Bible, but doesn’t develop the individual stories. On the other side of that spectrum was The Drama of Scripture, by Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew. It was written to serve as a text for college freshmen, and that’s how it reads. It gets into much more detail on a story by story basis, but reads, as you’d expect, like an introductory level college text.
A few weeks ago, I finished the third book — The Story of God, the Story of Us, by Sean Gladding — which I received for review from InterVarsity. It’s my favorite of the three, retelling the story in a narrative format, as if it was being retold as an oral narrative. It spends enough time on the individual stories to explain them, but pulls them all together into the overriding picture. I think it does it so well, I’m going to encourage my 8 year old daughter to read it to help her form the bigger picture. Someday, when we have a book table for Austin Mustard Seed, this is a book that will be on it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”