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Feb 2010

The Story of God

Sounds like a narrative for children, right?

Uh…wrong.   On the first night of our training here at Soma Communities, I, along with 30 other church planters and leaders could not wait to get into the first session.  Anticipating this week for quite a while, we were excited like 3rd graders on the first day back to school.  We whipped out notebooks and laptops, ready to write down everything these successful pastors had to say.  So the first words spoken could not have been more of a shock… “Its time to put all your notebooks and laptops away.  In three 3-hour sessions, you are going to listen to a story…”

Well, as you can imagine, I was quite put-off.  A week away from Redemption Hill and the wife/kids, 16+ hours of travel, hundreds of dollars… so I could listen to a story?  I was prepared for preaching, strategy, and expertise.  Not this.

But what happened during these 9 hours was incredible.  We listened to masterful storytellers read a series of the most basic summarized chronological narratives from the bible.  I’m talking Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Noah, etc… And after each 8 to 10 minute story, we didn’t break out the commentaries or the lexicons.  We answered questions like, “What did we learn about God from this story?”  “What did we learn about people from this story?”  And to add insult to injury, we were made to feel even more childish: we were only allowed to answer questions based on what we heard in the stories so far!

But were the answers juvenile?  Hardly.  It was some of the most honest and intellectually rigorous wrestling with the biblical text and theology I’ve ever experienced.  Were we bored?  We were held in rapt attention for 9 hours, each story adding layer after glorious layer of God’s master plan of rescue and redemption for sinful man.

And at the end, did we protest spending 9 hours we would never get back on bible stories?  No.  We worshipped.

Over the years, I have been convinced, as all good theologians should, of God’s choice and calling that brought me, a helplessly self-centered rebel back to himself.  But simply hearing the Story of God from Genesis to Revelation read to me helped me see something so profound.

God is not part of my life story.  I am a part of God’s story. One that is still unfolding and one that God has written and with all his divine power is executing and will execute flawlessly.  It may sound too simple, but I relished hearing about man’s persistent rebellion and God’s persistent mercy, ultimately realized through Jesus’ death on the cross for MY sins.  It made me realize that God’s grace has and will triumph over my own sin and rebellion and that God’s plan to wipe away every tear will perfectly and eternally restore everything that has been ravaged by sin.

So, I am looking forward to getting back to Richmond and reading and listening to God’s story with Redemption Hill.  My guess is that as we do we will feel like I did:  treated a little too much like a child.  But as Jesus tells us in one of the stories… the kingdom of God belongs to such as these and we and all of Richmond will be better for it.



Matt Bristol

February 1 2010 Reply


Chronological Bible Storying is very powerful. We tend to employ it mainly with peoples who cannot or do not read, but it is powerful in all settings. Stories are engaging and entertaining. They generate questions and responses. One of our friends who is here with us at MD Anderson, Avery Willis, the author of the Master Life discipleship series, is part of a group that are seeking to increase the use of storying, even here in the US. He is also working with a group that is trying to model 1st century church models in the 21st century. He came with us to Kaleo this past Sunday and it was most interesting for him. Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip. One is never too old to learn something new! Give us a shout when you have some free time. Matt and Betty

MIchael Novelli

February 3 2010 Reply

It is so cool you are connecting with Bible Storying. I actually was the principle writer of the story set you heard. You can find lots of resources on storying on my website at

–Michael Novelli

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