Monday, December 13, 2010

New Poll: How Often Do You Use Your Bible Maps?

Apart from some perusal when the Bible is first acquired and the occasional reference when reading Acts, my guess is that most people are not familiar with the maps in the back of their Bible. How often do you use them in study? Are they a vital resource? Can you live without them? Do you only look at them when you're bored during a sermon? Vote on the poll on the left sidebar and let us know. Comment on this post and share your thoughts.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bible Storytelling: Dan Stevers and the Early Church

The majority of the Bible is narrative of some kind, and often there are narratives within narratives. Storytelling is a major part of God's word and a major part of the preaching and teaching of Jesus and the apostles, whether it's factual reportage, testimony or parable. As a creative writing and literature major, I appreciate a well told story and finding new modes of delivering the scripture and the gospel a vital part of my generation's contribution to the advancement of the gospel message.

Storying or turning gospel teaching into a story is a vital part of missions and has the potential to add fruit to individual Bible study as well. As part of a text based culture we learn most often from deduction, analyzing and interacting with a laid out, general argument and applying it to specific situations; however, the majority of developing cultures learn from narratives and stories which then become part of the individual's belief structure. They inductively form general beliefs from specific instances. This means that a single story has the potential to radically change an entire belief structure. Our own reception of the gospel, a story that resonates with every generation and demands a personal, inductive response, proves that while we can praise God for deductive arguments, stories hold a major part in God's work.

Dan Stevers, a phenomenal graphic artist animator and illustrator, tells a number of stories in audiovisual form, and each act of telling the story draws out different points in the history of the early church.

The way he tells the story of Pentecost draws out rarely touched upon apocalyptic overtones and brings the message back to the gospel in a dramatically relevant way, pulling Luke's narrative into 21st Century storytelling.

The Story of Pentecost from on Vimeo.

He has also designed a retelling of Ananias and Sapphira's story from Acts 5 in the style and mood of Tim Burton. This video probably pushes the envelope a little further as the storytelling moves farther away from church culture and into the realm of mock horror, but even that aspect may illuminate parts of the story that would be otherwise missed.

A Grim Tale (Ananias and Sapphira) from Dan Stevers on Vimeo.

There's part of me that cherishes the fear of God and trembles at the story. Part of me wonders if the humor is appropriate because this is not an amusing tale, but I recognize the quality of the work and the careful self-awareness of Stever's approach, allowing himself creativity to bring the story to the audience in a new way without deemphasizing the impact of the scripture.

As I seek to reach out to Muslims and an urban culture where literacy is low, I must make a conscious effort to make storytelling a part of my evangelistic effort, and this begins with focusing on stories in my own Bible Study. I hope to explore avenues of adding stories and storytelling to personal study in the future of the blog.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Poll Results: Double or Single Column Format?

The poll is closed on the Double or Single Column preference query. A total of fifty readers voted (many thanks for making the blog a more interactive place and encouraging me as the author) and about 52% wanted (to varying degrees) Single Column format for their Bibles a much lesser 16% wanted Double Column. In-between those two sat 32% who either didn't care or enjoyed both formats. The biggest stat was the 28% who preferred Single Column Bibles while the smallest stat was the 4% who "Loved" the Double column format. It seems as if publishers have missed the mark when it comes to this reading audience- or are Single Column lovers just more militant? A new poll should be up later this week, comment on this post to give me poll ideas (I have a list of them somewhere but right now I'm drawing a blank.)

Review: START! The Bible for New Believers

Start!: The Bible for New Believers is a new "almost-study-Bible" from Thomas Nelson in the NKJV. Greg Laurie is the General Editor and seeing that no other name is attached to the Bible and Laurie holds the copyright, it seems safe to assume that he wrote all or most of the notes. The Bible is designed to give basic information to lay a spiritual and doctrinal foundation for new believers. The NKJV is not the first translation that comes to mind when thinking of new believers; however, it does give  a literal translation in modern (if at times complex) English.

The aesthetics of the Bible (this is the paperback version) are striking and iconic. The sleek modern design resonates on a level that suits the younger generations while not being outlandish or tacky. The dimensions of the paperback are a little under 8.5" x 5.5", which is a fairly nice carrying size and an in-between size for a Bible.

The Bible's features include introductions to each book with concise summaries and thematic introductions and three unique features: Grow, Know, Live and Learn Notes. The writing is always clear, concise and fluid. Simple, but gently confrontational prose coupled with an mentoring tone and style make the notes strikingly well crafted to their purpose. The notes work well as to inform and exhort the young believer into a deeper walk away from this world and further into Jesus Christ.

Laurie manages to dodge many hot-button or controversial topics such as election or spiritual gifts, and I
 feel the absence of guidance in these areas may be well conceived. This is not a theological help. It does not lay out all the sides of each viewpoint objectively and report on theological positions. Nor does it favor an individual view and press it on the reader. Instead it remains silent allowing the Bible student to read and find answers for himself, going to other, more equipped sources and hopefully to wise Christian council outside of books.

The notes included in this edition seem simple, but are hardly lightweight. Laurie introduces strong challenges to both the individual disciple and the church as a whole and does so with a grace that seems to flow through the project.

KNOW (Rev. 4:8)

God is holy. If anything comes out plainly in the Scriptures, it is this fact. And because God is holy, He hates sin. Have we lost sight of this? Have we traded reverence for relevance? A lot of churches want to grow numerically and will do whatever seems necessary to attract more people, so it becomes all about cultural connection and social relevance. Now, I am all for connecting with our culture and for being relevant. But do I have to stop being reverent? The early church had enormous reverence for God; they called it "fearing God" (Col 3:22; see also Acts 2:43; 13:26). This fear doesn't mean cowering because you are afraid He will smack you (though we often deserve it). In the Bible, fear means a wholesome dread of displeasing Him. The Lord is so good and so holy! Let's desire to live in such a way that we bring honor to His holy name. For more about the Attributes of God, see p. 1325.

Included in the edition are two articles which precede the text: a plan of salvation and "Secrets to Spiritual Success." The Plan of Salvation included is wisely put before Genesis, but is hardly the most compelling piece of prose in the work- and it should be. The following "Secrets of Spiritual Success" is much better, but the principles and practices described are hardly secrets. Another essay titled "Essentials" follows the text and is a brief doctrinal summation of the gospel, and may actually work better as an evangelistic tool than the initial plan of salvation. While no concordance is here a small topical index is available and this is not a designed to be a study Bible, but a reading Bible with minimal aids for encouragement and guidance. The Bible has numerous strengths and would be a suitable accessory for the new believer or the old who's looking for concise material to aid in bringing biblical doctrine to an audience of fresh believers or the unconverted.   

Thanks to Thomas Nelson who provided this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review. I have given an honest review.