“Read me a story!” This child-driven request can be for adults an invitation to perform, music to the ears, or merely a bedtime stall tactic…but it is natural and wonderful for kids to enjoy listening to tales. In this age of instant satisfaction entertainment and screen-swiping technology, there is something to be said for a return to good “old-fashioned” literature.
God loves stories, and instills in us an inclination toward receiving them as a method of communicating His story. Evidence of this is laced throughout the Bible, and is worth considering as we approach our attitude towards sharing God’s word. We can, for example, think of Biblical elements such as…
Parables! Jesus used stories in His teaching to emphasize and communicate lessons that listeners otherwise might not understand. Well, truth be told, they rarely understood even with the story explanations, but the effort still offers example. Think about how frequently pastors use illustrations to punctuate their sermons. Anecdotes, characters, and lore of any kind can sink in a moral or theme we might not otherwise fathom.
Prophecy and fulfillment… I was recently leading a Sunday school lesson and referenced a prophet whose words showed up again later in the life of Christ. One of my book-loving students realized that prophets actually make pronouncements that come true, and she lit up. From her story reading experience she had run into this theme many times, and seeing how the Bible really does it just made it all click for her. It was the principle of fairy tales and literature brought to life. But this thrill also reminds us of the verity of God’s word. We can trust its truth because we see without argument how predictions accurately follow through.
History… HIS story… The Bible is the story of Christ, essentially. In a nutshell, it has all of the classic plot elements of our stories: a conflict, continual difficulty, promise of a resolution, climax, and a coming conclusion (even if not yet complete). We see God’s people follow a cycle of obedience and apostasy, finally able to be redeemed only through the Savior. The Old Testament builds up in anticipation of this Messiah’s arrival, and after His life, death and resurrection in the Gospels, the remaining New Testament focuses on spreading that good news. The rest is more or less “to be continued” as we experience– and ultimately write, the last part of the story…
Poetry… There are several books of the Old Testament dedicated to beautiful language. It may not rhyme in English, but the poetic genre instructs us in wisdom and comforts us with the power of God’s presence.
Stories of all kinds… We often tend to share with students the same flannel graph-friendly tales again and again…it is easy to talk about sheep and shepherds, or fishermen in a boat, or miracles and seemingly impossible feats. But the Bible is full of snippets and stories about life, death, battle, consequences…these things really happened. While they are not all entirely child-appropriate, they can still be explored and appreciated, especially for those of us tired with the same repeated themes.
So go ahead…read a book! The Bible is not just a list of rules or a bunch of old fairy tale lullabies. It is a living and active Word, God’s tale given for us to love and to appreciate. We can use the stories of the Bible to emphasize the excitement of our faith, but that is not all. We can ultimately use any literature to communicate salvation principles. It might just be that stories are the most effective methods of opening up non-believers to the gospel. Or perhaps youngsters can receive and understand more with a good tale. Stories stir within us some hopeful excited passion that few other things can ignite. Let this spark fan a flame. Pursue it. And when a youngster wants a story told or read…go for it.