Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My daughter Clara loves stories. When I ran out of stories appropriate to tell her, I asked myself, ‘how many Bible stories have I internalized that I can tell to my daughter naturally in my own words?’  
"...tell us a story"

So I started telling the stories I was teaching in my Daniel class to Clara and we also told them at Maula Prison in Lilongwe. I told the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s ‘dream tree’ in which the Babylonian King lost everything, including his mind, before he 'looked to heaven and was restored'. After telling the story a prisoner said, ‘Nebuchadnezzar lost everything before he repented. We have nothing, who are we not to repent? The other prisoners responded in agreement with him. Now only 10% of those prisoners had finished secondary school but they ‘understood the doctrine’ and they ‘got it’ through the story!
"Let me tell you a story..."
In class at ABC, I was teaching ‘Every Thought Captive’, a ‘High School’ level apologetic book but the students at the College really weren’t ‘getting it’. Yet, the same students were ‘getting’ the difficult doctrine of the ‘Sovereignty of God’ from the stories of Daniel. So I decided to start teaching other doctrines through stories such as the ‘Providence of God’ from the ‘Story of Joseph’. I told the story of Paul’s conversion and asked the students what they liked about the story. They said, ‘God can change anyone’. I asked what the story teaches about man and they said, ‘man is not the seeker’. Then I asked what the story taught about God and a student raised his hand and said, ‘Predestination’. 

I had 70 students in class write a book report on the book, ‘Making Disciples of Oral Learners’. Every one of them said that Africans learn their ‘identity, history and values’ through stories and songs. That book says that 2/3 of the people in the world are oral learners. Half of these 4 billion people cannot read their own spoken language. The other half can read, but prefer to learn by being 'told what to do' rather than 'reading how to do something'. We all learn our own language by ‘oral means’ but oral learners prefer to learn through the ‘spoken word’ either by necessity or choice! http://www.lausanne.org/docs/2004forum/LOP54_IG25.pdf

Ironically, God has given us a book, the Bible, that is 80% stories and songs. However, our tendency in the Western Church has been to remove the ‘gospel’ from its story and reduce it to a few propositions to believe to go to heaven when you die. So we strip the gospel from the historical story of God’s plan to ‘redeem this fallen world’ and reduce it to a few propositions to believe to ‘escape this fallen world’.
In Africa the gospel is usually propagated in ‘bits and pieces’ apart from God’s redemptive historical story and the people remain largely defined by their own cultural stories. Africans identify with Christianity on a large scale, but all too often it is accepted because it comes with education, medical and the hope of ‘material prosperity’. This leads to a syncretized blend of Christianity with African traditional religion. As a result there are these 100,000 member ‘Nigerian Churches’ with TV stations and these churches are attracting Africans with their ‘Health and Wealth’ gospel.

To help shape African Christianity by the gospel we need to teach a Christ-centered Biblical Theology in the ‘Local Church’ using the Bible's own stories . Now we are seeking the Lord’s guidance on how we can better empower and equip the local African Churches. Our aim is to help strengthen the local church with the gospel so that African Christianity can positively shape the future of Christianity. Right now we are taking the following steps:

1)    ‘Storyrunners’ and their ‘School of Storying’.  
We plan to attend the ‘StoryRunners School of Storying’ in Orlando. Our team will learn 42 Bible stories to take to Malawi and the 5 day training is an introduction to what a 3 person team will do overseas. https://www.gcx.org/SR500/

2)    ‘Chichewa Story Bible’ We are putting a set of Biblical stories into a book as a Layman’s Biblical Theology through stories. Each story will have a couple pages of helps (context, theme, fulfilment in Christ).  We have a Malawian publisher, a former newspaper writer, and several Malawian Pastors committed to the project. The book will tell God's redemptive historical story through the Bible's own stories and will serve as an aid to a Biblical ‘storyteller’.


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