Teach The Whole Bible At Once

aaron-burden-300807By Mitchell East, an intern for the university ministry of St. Aldates Church in Oxford, England.

A few weeks ago, I sat in a conference room with eleven co-workers. We work for a church as interns and part of our internship includes teaching. In one teaching session, a professor came and took four hours to tell the entire story of the Bible in chronological order. Had someone asked me to do the same thing, I would have laughed. I love teaching the Bible, but what group of young adults wants to use their whole afternoon to hear a lecture on it? Don’t millennials hate the Bible?

My co-workers loved the lecture. One co-worker said, “That was a spiritual experience.” We couldn’t stop talking about it for days. We laughed and we cried and we said, “Amen” more than a few times. But most importantly, we saw the whole story of God with His people.

Part of the credit goes to the professor. She told the story with clarity and depth, hardly leaving any loose end. She also brought the stories to life. One of her best moments was her comparison of Israel’s sacrificial system and the other nations’ worship. She called it the competition between barbeque and prostitutes. I will – without shame – use that line in the future.

I’m tempted to dismiss my co-workers’ reactions because they are already committed Christians. They’re working for a church for free – they are clearly invested in the church. So it is more likely that they aren’t representative of Christians my age, especially non-committed Christians. Perhaps they are bible lovers who’ve heard these lectures before and can’t wait to hear them again.

But their reactions didn’t show that they had experienced anything like this lecture. They said, “I’ve never heard it all together in one sitting before,” and “I have always been overwhelmed by the whole thing.” It wasn’t due to lack of interest per se, but a lack of teaching. Christians my age might have heard bits and pieces of the story, but rarely in one big gulp.

This is what I want to commend to pastors and teachers in the church: tell the whole story of the Bible. One of the greatest statements I heard after the lecture was: “I didn’t know God weaved these stories together so well.” If you’re a church leader, help young (and old!) Christians see this truth: God has perfectly weaved these stories together. God has guided this story from its beginning and God will bring this story to its ultimate consummation.

If you do this, it will take time. If your church has Sunday school, these lessons might need a few months of classes – depending on how exhaustive you want to be. And yet, these lessons will be worth far more than some of the surface-level topical lessons I hear in young adult classes. My co-workers will remember this lecture longer than someone’s top ten dating tips for Christian young adults. Trust me.

Last week, I wrote about figural reading of the Bible and how it helps the church read Scripture “backwards and forwards.” I don’t know if this professor would use the phrase “figural reading,” but she used the method throughout her lecture. She flipped from Adam to Jesus and then from Jesus to Moses, without ever losing the class. She told us that Adam took the fruit from the forbidden tree and brought death upon us all, but Jesus gives his body and blood for the life for the world. And yet, she told us, by his death Jesus became the new Moses who delivered Israel and the nations from their slavery to sin. She used an ancient way of reading the Bible to help young adults see grand narrative within it. And they couldn’t take their eyes off of it.

God has perfectly weaved the stories of Scripture together. Now it is up to the teachers of the church to do the same.

 

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