All too often I come across childrens’ ministry that seems like random ancient tales with a moral. An interesting little tale from long ago and far away that is offered with a moral moral – do this, don’t do that. But then children go to school where the tales told in the classroom don’t begin with “once upon a time,” but with “the scientists know that…” All too easily the children in our Sunday School classes make the inevitable observation that there is more truth in one environment than the other.
Children need to have their Bible stories offered more carefully – with theology and historicity included, not to mention the gospel in all its glory.
But then we look at ministry among adults. All too often it is abstract doctrine combined with moral exhortation. A book we agree must be honoured is often dishonoured by being presented in dull, lifeless abstraction. Then these adults go to a media saturated world where moral shaping doesn’t begin with a prayer and a verse, but with credits and a powerful opening sequence. The world knows not to lecture us on what to believe and to do, but rather to dress it up in George Clooney’s wardrobe and wrap it in a plot. Adults do their duty by sitting through sermons, and are shaped by a week full of stories saturated in moral guidance, political direction and conscience numbing power.
Adults need to have their hearts gripped and shaped by engaging Bible stories, where theology and truth are dressed up in real life!
God gave us a lot of His Word in story form. This was not merely to resource childrens ministries, nor to furnish preachers with an anthology of sanctified illustrations. It was because God is a great communicator, and because the truth about God is that His truth is incarnational.
Bible stories dress up truth in real life, they are theology in concrete. Our privilege is to accurately, compellingly, engagingly re-present God’s great communication as we preach His real Word to this, His real world. If we relegate stories to childrens ministry alone, then we restrict ourselves to a small segment of His Word. Furthermore, we blind ourselves to the narratival features of the apparently “non-story” genres.
Over the next few days, I’d like to nudge us back toward preaching our theology in the dress of real life. Let’s revisit the world of the Bible story well preached!