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.

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