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STS-What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

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Design of STS

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Origin of STS

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STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STS -What & Why:

What is STS?

Results of STS

Need for STS

Design of STS

Impact of STS

Origin of STS

Spread of STS

 

Decidedly Biblical


The design of Simply The Story (STS) holds the Word of God in the highest regard. The various topics on this very full web page DSCN1602describing STS can be accessed directly using the links below.

Combined, the individual topics show the choices we have made in STS to maintain biblical integrity and most effectively train people to use story for evangelism and discipleship.

All who are ministering using the Word of God in story form are seeing some positive impact. In general, users of story see these positive results because God’s Word does not return void. The methods used by individuals and groups using story vary in style. Below are some of the distinctives of Simply The Story and some of the reasons why we have chosen the methods we use.

Some articles here are shortened versions of material in the Simply The Story Handbook available as a gift download on this site. As well, our certified STS instructors teach and model these methods and skills in the STS workshops. Yet other material and testimonies on this page and on this site are found only on this web site.


Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top

Biblical Accuracy

049_Africa_Man_with_MegaVoiceSpeaking stories and passages from the Bible to those who cannot read is taken very seriously in the design of STS.

The methods we use to train people to prepare and share Bible stories are oral in nature, yet the methods teach accuracy.

We know those who cannot read are placing great trust in those of us who teach them Bible stories.

Unless non literate people have an actual recorded Bible, they have no way to check the accuracy of the stories we or anyone else tells them.

But, from those of you who do read, we welcome scrutiny.

Our desire at STS is that all stories we tell and record and the oral strategies we employ will be examined by the same yardstick that the Bereans used to measure the words of the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:11).

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

When Christians repeat God’s Word in story or otherwise, or when we teach others in the use of story, we need to hold ourselves to this Berean standard.

Our chosen verse at The God’s Story Project and Simply The Story is Psalm 96:3, “Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.” How can this be done? Psalm 119:130 tells us that, when God’s Word enters us, it gives light to us and gives understanding to the simple.

God prepared His Word to reach all people. We want to trust His Word, use it, and see even the most simple and non literate people of the world understanding it.

We encourage those who are blessed with the skill of reading, and who have more than one Bible version in their language to read more than one version to prepare their told story. During preparation, differences in content may be discovered. In fact, it will happen. Some content differences will affect the way a story is told and understood.

We recommend in such cases that the storyteller should look at the passage in those multiple versions to see which word selection best fits the whole story—and to pray. So far the contradictions have been successfully solved this way.

Again, we teach storytellers to ask questions and lead the group to discover only information that is found within the story. Even in introductions, offer and discuss only information within the Bible. The Bible is the only infallible message from God. All else written pales in comparison to God’s Word.

Context Matters (below) does show how Scripture outside a story may be needed and is used in the STS style of preparing and sharing stories.

At first, when learning the added tool of STS, those accustomed to using proof texts from throughout the Bible are mystified. But this is doable! When preparation is done slowly and the story is listened to well, it is amazing how much treasure can be mined from just one story.


Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

Chronological Impact

As we explain in the Origin of STS, the first glimpse we had of the strong power of story came as we watched the impact of our flagship production, God’s Story: From Creation to Eternity. But more was discovered from God’s Story. The importance of presenting stories in chronological order and of starting at the beginning of the Bible stood out as well.

For a long time, the teaching emphasis in most of Christianity has been on New Testament information. This is true in both evangelism and discipleship material, and also in translation. Only recently has the vital need in relational and oral societies to know about mankind’s generational connectedness come to the forefront. The Bible shows our connectedness through Adam, Noah and Babel.

Furthermore, people need to know about Creation, Jesus’ part in Creation and that God planned salvation before He made the world. Early in God’s Word He starts revealing that, from the beginning, it was His plan to have Jesus come and live among us, as one of us, and then to be crucified and rise again to provide salvation for us.

That is one of the reasons that the God’s Story video spends the first 17 minutes of its 80 minutes covering Creation and the Fall in the Garden.

Ramesh is Director of The God’s Story Project (TGSP) in the Buddhist world and has helped orchestrate and record God’s Story in 21 South Asian languages. He presides over 843 cell churches in his country.

Some time back, I called Ramesh on the phone in hopes that I could hear about his latest ministry trip. When we connected, he explained that he was in a hurry to get to the hospital to visit his mother-in-law. After I asked about her condition and being told of her many ailments, Ramesh shared that she might not live. I asked, “Is she a believer?”

Ramesh said, “She is not. We have tried and tried to tell her, but she will not listen.”

I asked him if he had ever shown her God’s Story. He responded, “No.”

I blurted out, “Why not, Ramesh?”

He said, “She is a Hindu cult leader and lives in a far village. When we talk to her about Jesus, she says, ’You have Jesus. I have Buddha, end of story.’ We have tried for 14 years and she won’t believe. So I never thought about showing her God’s Story.

“So take the ministry DVD player and go the hospital and show it to her, like Mark does.”

“Okay mom, I will,” he responded. But his abrupt response and tone indicated, I will do that to show respect to you, but it will not work.

Two days later Ramesh contacted me to say, “Thank you very much for your prayer and as you asked, I showed my mother-in-law God’s Story in the hospital bed. The room had six patients and their caretakers, and some visitors. The room was soon crowded.

“I asked her if she could watch a movie and she said ok. I didn’t watch the DVD player, I just watched her face. After a time, tears were on her cheeks. Then, after 17 minutes had played, she suddenly told to me, ‘Stop the machine. You never told me that your God made my god! Why didn't you tell me this before? Now I understand!’

“She prayed to trust on Jesus, and so did two others in the room! The next day she was released; we took her home, totally healed.”

Ramesh later wrote to explain in more detail about what happened when he went to the hospital. As well, he told his view why his mother-in-law had never understood the Gospel before, even though they had tried many times to convince her.

“We attempted to share with her many time (I have been married for 15 years), talking about stories from the Bible basically all from the New Testament stories. That's how I had been discipled, mentored by my mother who also been led to the Christ by western missionary in our place.

“My mother, she only heard the stories from the NT and was mentored by topical studies of the word of GOD. She always quote me the stories from the New testaments and I knew only this is the way to tell the people about Jesus.

“The way to witness to some one became in capsule form (automated programmed). For the people we prescribe these capsules and try to bring them to our understanding. If they don't receive Christ, then I used to say I did my part and HE will do HIS part and may be yet is not the time. BUT I never thought. Am I communicating the gospel to him/her in the way they understand?

“The answer from my mother in Law used to be the same always, ‘All the gods are the same, good karma will lead you to the Heaven.’ She never trusted Jesus is more powerful than any other gods she was worshiping until she heard the story started from Genesis. She was cult leader in her village.

”So we learnt that we need to present the gospel in way that they understand, she now has a very strong foundation, she understood that Jesus is a creator GOD who was in the creation with HIS father and came to the earth in the fulfillment of the time.

"Now, as we present the story, we present the whole story in a way they understand the head, not only the tail. Hindu and Buddhist mind sets is OLD IS GOLD. This saying may not make best sense in other culture, coz not many people know this. But it does make a great sense in their world view. What they think OLD, they think it is proven by the time and is true. So they need to understand the word of GOD tells the old story from the very start.” [End of Ramesh’s testimony]

We believe that since the early part of the Bible is in story format, covers Creation and God’s plan to send a Savior, it is wise to select these stories to tell in story format. Wonderfully, most users of story have seen the value of these stories and do tell stories about Creation and minister with stories in chronological order.

We continue in TGSP to include the God’s Story: From Creation to Eternity in our STS workshops and follow up, as it does provide that vital chronological information.

Some of the varied ways stories can be presented in order can be to ...

  1. Pick a book, such as Genesis, Judges or Acts and go through its stories.
  2. Go through the book of Acts and insert some of the Epistles at the point when these churches were visited or established.
  3. Go through the Bible chronologically, picking major stories throughout. (See STS 296 Chronological Story List.)

Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Trainings |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

Context Matters – Use of Introductions

When a story is told the STS way, often an introduction is first given. This is how we help put a story into context.

The introductions are to be as short as possible, because introductions are documentary in style, so they are harder to remember. As well, there is more than enough information just inside one story to fill the time available to tell a story.

Purposes of Introductions:
  1. Contextualizing. To understand Bible stories correctly, many times the setting (what has happened before the story takes place) must be known. The essential information needed to help listeners best understand a story can be told before the story is told.
  2. Terms that may not be understood by the listener are explained.
  3. To add brief information needed to understand observations that the storyteller plans to introduce through questions. As a story is being discussed, parts of stories already studied by everyone assembled can be referenced as examples. (Only do this if you know all gathered heard the previous stories.)
  4. If stories are being told in order, before you begin the current story, you can ask someone who was in attendance when you told the previous story to retell the story. Then ask a few to recall some of the spiritual observations from the previous story and ask some to restate some of the spiritual observations the group uncovered.
Allowing those who are being taught to review that previous story empowers them to speak God’s Word. Also, you as the storyteller will find out what people do or do not know. If the group is vague about the story, you might decide right then to go back and spend your study time telling the same story again and discussing it again. If the group does well in telling the story and stating the treasures, those who missed the story are now current, and the context has been stated by those you are teaching.

Introductions are formulated last during the preparation process, since the storyteller knows by then what needs to be introduced, if anything.

When STS records stories for non-literates, or stories for our STS Practitioners Audio Training, we record introductions as well to give the non-literates the ability to understand and teach the story in context.

Introductions are vital to provide context.


Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

 

Drama Speaks

In STS workshops and the STS Handbook,AW_Drama02 we teach the storytellers how to tell their Bible stories using actions, expressions and voice inflections so that the story can be seen and heard.

From the beginning, we emphasize that any emotions or actions shown must be justified from the text. Showing an emotion that is just your idea is adding to the Word of God, not a good idea!
AW_Drama15

To “show” a story, these are some of the skills we teach and encourage people to use.

We demonstrate actions that can show fear, greed, aggression, flight, surprise, bravery, wisdom, depression and other emotions.

Emotions can be demonstrated even through slight gestures. Then we have learners practice what they have seen and heard.

Where the storyteller stands, looks or gestures can establish the locationAW_Drama16 of people, crowds, or places mentioned in the told story.

As an example, when storytellers are speaking a person’s quotes, by slightly repositioning their bodies, to be in the place and looking in the correct direction that simulates where that character is located, where he would be looking or what he would have been doing, brings life to the story.

For instance, healed people may look amazed and slowly move their newly healed body, or they may become excited and jump for joy. Hesitations in speech, and also hesitations in movement, add realism and drama to storytelling.

We always give these words of caution: “If you find that those to whom you tell the story come to you afterwards and say how great of a storyteller or actor you are, rethink your presentation. Storytellers are not the feature; God’s Word is the feature."

Too much movement by a storyteller can take away focus from the spoken words; people begin to watch the storyteller more than listening. It is best to make small movements that just illustrate the words you speak.

What you want people to say is, ‘That story spoke to me,’ or ‘I am that person in the story.’”

Toward the end of each of our workshops, we give opportunities for everyone to design and present dramas. To keep accuracy, while the rest of their drama group silently enacts the story, we have one person tell (or sing or chant) the story accurately, but with an expressive voice.

We do not have various people speak the parts of the characters in a drama because it is more difficult to have many people remember their parts than it is for one person to remember the story. Also, when various people speak the lines, even when they all do well, listeners are less likely to remember the story so they can tell it to others than when they hear a story told by one expressive storyteller.

As well, when these new “actors” forget their lines and start to make up spoken lines, the accuracy of God’s Word is lost. What then is the value of even presenting the story? Very often, out of nervousness, those words people do make up are said in jest, and and a precious story from God’s Word becomes a comedy.

Worldwide, this type of drama is a loved part of the workshop experience. We do dramas toward the end of the workshop. By then, even the shy attendees join in and become brave enough to share in front of others. Again and again, we see even the shyest people from cultures that normally do not show emotion become creatively dramatic. Humm? Maybe this is the joy of the Lord showing up?

To see a video presentation of a story see Drama.



Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

 

 


Jesus Model

How did Jesus communicate? Yes! Very often Jesus spoke in parables and told stories. Could He have given the most stunning lectures, using the most impressive vocabulary in existence? Yes, He could have. But Jesus chose to use words that the common working people of his day could understand. As well, Jesus’ words and stories were understood by the Scribes and Pharisees, the most educated people in Jesus’ day.

Just as Jesus told stories both long and short, so we encourage the use of different length stories. Some of the sample stories that we list as good to tell are only a few verses long, short stories, so to speak. Most are 6 to 14 verses long and some cover a whole chapter.

Jesus very often used another tool of communication. Again and again, Jesus gave His disciples and others a chance to think and to answer questions, using a godly perspective. In fact, out of 183 times Jesus was asked a question, He only responded with a direct answer three times! All of the other times, Jesus responded by asking a question or telling a story or parable.

And usually, after telling a story, Jesus asked a question and invited discussion. For three years Jesus continued to train His disciples by encouraging them to listen to His Word, to think and believe, and to apply the wisdom.

So Jesus led by example in the use of stories and questions, as a way to witness and disciple.



Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

Joy of Discovery

If you were out walking, and as you traveled along, you noticed something of value off to the side of the road, you probably would think, Wow, a valuable treasure on the ground! So you would pick it up and no doubt say, Oh, boy, I just found a treasure! You might hurry back to a friend to show him your treasure. You offer your friend some of the treasure and say, “Here. I want you to have some of the treasure I just found.”

If you handed off some treasure to your friend in that manner, would he be happy to receive the gift?

Sure. That person would be happy to be given a gift.

But, you could also have shared it this way. You could tug the sleeve of your friend and whisper, “Hey. Come with me. I want to show you something; let’s just take a walk.” Then you could take him on the same walk where you left the treasure off to the side of the road.

You could draw your friend nearer and nearer to the spot where you found the treasure and ask, “Do you see anything interesting? Do you see anything there?”

As you draw closer, when that person finally looks down and notices the treasure, he most happily picks it up.

If you asked your friend, “Did you enjoy the treasure the first time when I just handed it to you?” he will probably say "yes" or nod in agreement.

“Good! But how did you enjoy the treasure when you discovered it yourself?”

Probably your friend will say, “I liked it better when I discovered it myself.”

You would just have allowed your friend to experience the joy of discovery by allowing him to be part of discovering a treasure.

Being given a treasure has value for sure, but when treasure is not just handed off to you and you discover it for yourself, it has the most value.

As you teach, besides lecturing and handing people truths and insights from the Bible, you can also allow people to discover truths for themselves through well thought out questions.

This simple “Joy of Discovery” illustration shows the difference between two ways of sharing biblical information. Truth can be given to listeners through preaching and lecture, which are ways of giving, giving, giving people information. The recipients will like the information and will appreciate the teacher.

But, as we teach in STS, you can involve learners in the pursuit of information by almost invisibly leading people to discover truth for themselves.

Although you may lead listeners close to a truth through questions, learners will remember when they had that “Ah ha!” moment, and they discovered that truth. As well, the most joy and the strongest impact in learning from Scripture is when people have the experience of discovering for themselves.



Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

Level Playing Field

Sometimes a sports example is used to explain fairness. We refer to “a level playing field.” That is when one team’s side of the field is higher than their opponent’s side of the field, and an unfair advantage is gained. Fairness requires a level playing field.

We at STS could try to convince people through lectures or reports that STS offers a level playing field for learners, that it is possible for literate and non literate to learn alongside one another. But it is only when those from both groups experience this equality of learning, that this amazing discovery is truly believed.

Level Field in Action
In a village in Nepal, where many people, both trained pastors and villagers, gathered for two days of STS Bible teaching, something special happened. They all were discussing the second of two stories in the Bible about Moses when God provided water from a rock.

Suddenly, they saw how Moses revealed a change of heart, a heart now of pride and self sufficiency, when he said, "Must we bring you water from the rock, you rebels?"

One leading pastor confessed, "We have been holding ourselves up as the source of all information and truth like we were above the people. We have become proud leaders. Why don't I repent now?" Then other pastors said the same. The training stopped while repentance took place.

At the end of two days of this STS discussion style of Bible study, an elderly lady, a leader, stood up. "I know now that God even loves people like me who cannot read. Since I have been a believer, I have had to wait for pastors to explain to me what God says, so I could tell others about God. I did not know that God would speak directly to me out of his Word." For one example of how non literate people were reached see

Listening and Responding
People of all ages, socio economic backgrounds, education, and theological training gathered around Jesus. The people who listened and responded experienced a life change. This listening and responding is the heart of what we teach in STS.

The Holy Spirit teaches those who listen well; God honors those who respond to what they have learned.

As well, we teach how storyteller-teachers need to be listening and responding to those they teach when a story is told and discussion is led.

In fact, Simply The Story is uniquely defined as Listening and Responding.

Respect and Unity
The Bible does encourage education in the Word of God, and respect toward spiritual leaders. At the same time the Word of God speaks of unity and oneness within the Body of Christ. We love to see the bonding and newly acquired respect that springs up as people from a rainbow-wide spectrum of learning styles come together in a workshop.

The main time during the workshop that the discoveries of spiritual alikeness and capabilities occur is when people listen and respond and prepare and share the same Bible story.

To promote that kind of discovery, STS instructors welcome youths and just "regular folks" to their workshops. We love seeing workshops filled with experts in the Word, ministry leaders, pastors and theologians, but we also welcome people from various countries, lay people, youth and those who do not learn well from reading.

By gathering this seemingly disparate group of people together, staff instructors can show all in attendance how STS investigation of Bible stories levels the playing field for everyone. By using the keys of staying in one Bible story at a time and of asking questions that help people find truths in that story, everyone learns and everyone contrubutes.

Everyone loses!
In Christian settings, discussion style teaching of the Bible does take place. But too often, the questions asked by leaders are ones that only those more familiar with the Bible or those with a background of Christian influence or those who know Christian terminology will be able to answer.

When the style of questions pulls on information outside the story, an unfair advantage is given to those experienced few, who will probably answer most of the questions.

Those in the study who do not have the outside information cannot respond correctly, so they will feel demeaned, not participate and lose interest. Also, those who do give the answers based on their already acquired knowledge are cheated out of the opportunity to stretch and to learn more from the Bible story being investigated.

And the storyteller-teacher, who does not form questions that can be answered from within the story by all present and who does not use questions that prompt new discovery loses the joy of helping people experience the joy of discovery.

And sadly, all lose the chance to be taught freshly by the Holy Spirit.

Of central importance in the design of STS and the workshops we lead, is showing how to develop questions and a learning environment that promotes this equality of interaction.



Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

Oral Training

When we first began teaching STS to others, we used whiteboards for lists and attendees took notes. We presented our information in a standard lecture style. We taught how to learn a story, told attendees some of the many treasures contained in a story, and gave them a few basic questions to help open up discussion on the story, questions that were the same for every story.

We soon recognized the need to show people how to investigate the stories more deeply for themselves. Over time, we developed ways to help them find spiritual treasures and to form the kinds of questions that would get others to discover treasures for themselves.

From the beginning, we broke attendees out into small groups to learn stories, so our workshops have always been hands-on experiences. These small group periods have grown to become a central part of what people experience and love in workshops.

But still, in our early workshops we largely used literate methods to teach oral strategies. Soon the Lord impressed us that if we were to take STS to the oral learners of the world, we must ourselves learn oral methods and become comfortable in using oral styles to teach. How could we teach others what we ourselves could not do?

We began incorporating more and more illustrations in our workshops, which enabled us to use less and less lecture.

To everyone’s surprise, we began asking all of the attendees to “Put away your pens and notebooks!” In all of our workshops (unless all of the attendees were non literate) some of those in attendance thought we were joking.

Unbelievably, some cry and at times we have been close to physical confrontations with a few when we suggest to them that they try a way of learning that is new to them. Letting go of the familiar can be scary.

Teachers Must Expand Skill-Sets

One workshop attendee, a highly educated seminarian and career missionary, told me that he was going back to a South East Asian country to teach STS at several Bible schools. I asked him if he was going to learn the needed illustrations to be able to present a full STS workshop. He explained, “I will be modifying the schedule some and we will be allowing them to take notes.”

I asked why he wanted to change the format. He replied, “These people are all literate; they are Bible school students! They can learn that way.”

“And,” I asked, “after graduation, the people these graduates will minister to, are they literate?”

After a significant silence, the missionary replied, “No, the graduates will be ministering to villagers, to non literates.”

“So,” I responded, “you are struggling with incorporating oral strategies into your teaching skills, and you are not wanting to change your style; but you expect those you teach to figure out how to change their literate style of communication so they can reach the villagers? Who do you think really needs to make the change so the oral teaching style of STS can be modeled, not just talked about?”

This man instantly responded with, “I must make the change. In fact, although those in Bible schools are literate, most have come from oral learning communities.

“However, the ‘good’ Bible school training done throughout this country is highly literate, so the implication has been that Christianity is best taught and learned through the vehicle of highly literate communication.

“These Bible school students will benefit from seeing me, a credentialed Westerner, using oral methods. That demonstration will show the students that deep spiritual truths can be transmitted by oral methods!”

Using oral methods in our workshop has become our strategy. Attendees who are new to oral ways of learning have the opportunity to do more than study a new style—they experience it.

Early in their workshop experience, some attendees, particularly those new to oral strategy, struggle with these many unfamiliar ways of learning. But those who will set aside skills they know and make the attempt to embrace something new are able to add STS and oral ways of learning and teaching to their skill sets.

Use of Illustrations

We believe that the use of illustrations to convey ideas must be central to our workshop trainings. Not only will non literates, semi literates and preferred oral communicators more readily receive the information, the discipline of learning to teach using illustrations (stories) helps our literacy-based instructors to begin to think more like oral communicators.

Awhile back, one of our highly-literate-thinking instructors expressed his discomfort at using “so many” illustrations to teach. He stated, “We should just tell them what to do, and let them talk in illustrations among themselves if they want to.” [At this time we were telling maybe fifteen illustrations in our workshops.]

We often consult our national leaders when new ideas are proposed. We try to stay objective, so we stated the question to our African director this way: “Maybe we now have too many illustrations in the workshops that people have to learn to be able to become qualified instructors. It has been suggested that we take out some of the illustrations and just tell people what they need to know.”

Our leader shouted, “Don’t you dare! If you have to shorten the schedule, take out the lecture if you have to take out something, but don’t you dare take out one single illustration!”

Recently, a leading bishop in Kenya who has become an STS instructor made this statement. “It’s hard for me to believe that it wasn’t an African who wrote these illustrations; they are African.”

If an African leader’s perception of the STS workshop illustrations is that “they are African,” we believe that we have met our goal of thinking as oral learners!



Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

Stories Reach Hearts

Again and again, we see the deep spiritual treasures in a story being within everyone’s reach. The healing and bonding that take place between literate and the non literate, and the educated and non educated, when they find treasures together, is precious to experience.

For those new to Christianity, the most commonly used teaching styles to introduce them to Scripture are expositional and topical. Unfortunately, if those being taught do not learn well (or at all) from reading and the literate styles of topical and expositional teaching, they struggle to understand in-depth biblical information because of the way that information is packaged.

These kinds of less literate learners either drop out of those teaching sessions or they are perceived by leaders as having lesser capacity to learn than the more literate learners. If these learners of a different kind are noticed at all and deemed worthy to be taught, instead of adjusting the method of presentation, they are given simplified, actually dumbed-down, biblical content.

The concept that those who are not alike in educational backgrounds can study and discuss God’s Word together, and that they all can learn and contribute worthwhile discoveries can be difficult to fully fathom.

We must ask ourselves if we have moved the spiritual pursuit of the things of God solely into an intellectual activity. In most circles, it seems that those who are literate and able to accumulate and reference large amounts of information are perceived by most as more spiritually capable than less literate learners.

Somewhere over the years, have we slipped into thinking that Christianity is just the housing of knowledge, just a cognitive pursuit rather than a spiritual adventure?

God made us as body, soul and spirit. Taking time to listen well to a story and to discover how much those in a Bible story are like ourselves is a powerful way of bringing spiritual truth to our minds and hearts.

Stories allow us to sense truth, as well as to know in our minds the things of God. When, through stories, we experience the way God works with mankind and how much we need Him and how very far we fall short of His goodness and glory, the Word most deeply impacts our lives.



Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

Story Crafting

Some who minister with Bible stories use the tool of “story crafting.” This is the taking out of some information or insertion of information to help listeners understand the story.

The rationale behind “story crafting” is the desire to make stories easy to remember and to understand. Story crafting can take the form of leaving out most of the names in a story (as a general rule, if they are new names, only use three) or of leaving out dimensions or weights (such as the description of Goliath’s armor and weapons). It can also be the leaving out of large sections of a story.

Also, in story crafting, the explaining of story information is sometimes done inside the story while the story is being told.

Realistically, if someone wanted to tell the story of Joseph’s life, it would take a long time to tell all 21 chapters from Genesis! So how can the Joseph story be told in an accurate way, a way that can fit in a reasonable time frame, AND be remembered?

Most likely, people will not be able to story-tell 21 chapters all at once, nor would that length of a telling fit into the time frame available in most forums.

We generally do not favor the telling of a long (perhaps no more than 25 verses) story all at once as the excessive length tends to bury the wealth and diversity of spiritual information the story contains. Listeners need time to discuss, consider and digest the spiritual information they receive. If there is too much material to cover in a discussion, the tendency is to talk about the obvious and to not explore the story deeply, consequently; the spiritual wealth a story contains is missed.

In a case like the Joseph story, some users of story crafting would solve the length problem by presenting a much shortened documentary of his life. Maybe the shortened story would have a few short quotes left in it, so that the information retains the story style that is needed to make the presentation feel and sound like a story.

When producing the video, God’s Story: From Creation to Eternity, we used some of the techniques of story crafting. (To have covered the whole Bible in 80-minutes means we cut out a lot more information than we left in!) From Genesis to Revelation, we picked stories that carried the redemptive thread and kept in the generational connectedness. As much as possible, we kept the stories intact.

But when this story crafting is done, a question arises that needs to be addressed. What should we call a story that is crafted (such as could be done with the Joseph story), or a compilation of stories such as is God’s Story? Should we call these crafted stories “documentaries,” “an oral Bible,” “Bible stories,” or “parts of stories from the Bible”?

In STS, we have recognized that, if we say, “This is the Bible story,” people will trust us to tell the story as the Bible tells it. So, if our storytellers say, “This is the Bible story,” we want them to tell all that is in that passage.

But those problems still need to be addressed: the problems of stories that are too long for the allotted time to tell and effectively discuss and the problems of stories that contain information that probably wouldn’t be understood.

We in STS have found solutions to these challenges with which we are comfortable, solutions that also preserve the information contained in the Bible.

For instance, in order to cover the complete Joseph story, one could tell it in short sections.

Or a lot of information in the Joseph story could be condensed and put into an introduction. Then, just before a selected, reasonable-length section of the story is told, the storyteller says, “This is the story.” This way the listener can hear a story told in context, the told story will be biblically accurate, and the selected shorter length will allow thorough examination and discovery of spiritual treasures through questions.

In STS, we select stories and passages on their "tell-ability" and as well, select what section of that story we will tell.

In one way, we do change stories in STS, because we do teach people to tell stories conversationally. This means storytellers must select words that both respectfully and clearly represent the more literate style of the written Scripture.

Not Memorizing, It's Conversational "Remembering"
During STS workshops, when we first explain this conversational method, some of those who treasure God’s Word show panic on their faces. Recently this happened with a Filipino whose mother tongue is Cebuano.

When I sensed his concern, I asked, “You love God’s Word and do not want to change a single word of it, right?”

He took a deep breath of relief, thinking I now understood his position. “That’s right!”

Then I innocently asked, “So then, you tell the stories of the Bible in Greek and Hebrew, right?”

“What? No! I don’t speak those languages. I tell the stories in Cebuano, my language, just as it is written in our Bible.”

“Oh,” I responded, “I am so glad you do not want to change any of the words of God. But I have a question. Do the words of the language in your Bible look or sound like Greek or Hebrew?”

“No,” he answered. “They sound like Cebuano!”

”’No,’ you say? Then what is the same in your Cebuano words that is the same as the original words that the Holy Spirit inspired?”

“Oh,” the Filipino burst out. “It is the content. I get it. I get it! I can speak the words naturally, the way people talk, but I must not add or take away content. That is what stays the same. No wonder the mountain people were having trouble with the stories. I was making them memorize every word, but they don’t even know a lot of those words.”

“You do get it!" I agreed. “But, before a story is actually told for ministry purposes, through prayer and careful consideration, you decide how you will tell it, but for sure, no content is added, and no content is taken away.”

So in summary, in STS, we are wary of taking on the responsibility of making decisions regarding what Bible information others may not need, and realize that decisions on what might be taken out would be subjective. We remain cautious about giving the impression that we have told a complete story to those who have no way to know what we may have left out.

We celebrate those who translate Scripture and lead literacy programs, so that the time can come that some people will be able to read for themselves. As well, every time Scripture passages or Bible stories in their entirety are recorded, non literates even now will be able to use those recordings as bench marks for their told stories.

In an STS presentation of a story, we feel comfortable calling it “a Bible story” when we use introductions to explain any unknown information, conversational word selection to be understood, and selected lengths of a continuous story that can be told and discussed in the time available.

One long term missionary in OMF describes "My Change in Mindset" He tells about his own difficulty in memorizing a crafted story, and his surprise discovery of how he could "remember" a precisely correct story.



Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

 

 

Topical Teaching

If I saw a beautiful butterfly and I wanted to know more about that butterfly, I might catch it and bring it down. Then I could start pulling off its wings and putting them all in a pile, and putting all the antennae in a pile, and all the little legs in a pile. And then I could stand back and say, “Ahhhh, isn’t that beautiful!”

“Ohhh no!” you say?

“What’s wrong?

“Oh. Right! It’s dead. It’s not flying. I agree. You’re right. It has lost its beauty. It doesn’t fly anymore. I’ve taken it apart. What was beautiful was how it all fit together when it had life, and could fly.”

Stories in the Bible are like that. If we say, “Ahh, that’s a beautiful story; now let’s analyze it.” Then we take it apart and we list all the like things together. We might pile up in one list all the characters in the story. In another we include all the times the same words occur, in another all the instructions, in yet another all of the promises, and we continue that way, putting each of the like things together.

But in doing that, sadly, like the dissected butterfly, the story taken apart loses its beauty. The stories in the Bible are much like that butterfly. They have many parts that fit together to make a whole. But when we take a story apart and analyze those parts and put them in lists or piles of similar parts, we often lose the beauty and the flow that originally drew us to that story.

Is the Bible topical? Is there one book on prayer, another on faith, another on the attributes of God and so on? No? Humm? Well, I have a good idea. Since God didn’t assemble the Bible that way, let’s do it for ourselves. It surely sounds ridiculous to say it that way, but is that not what we have done?

Oh yes, another question. How many Gospels are there?

Yes, four. Four separate accounts of Jesus’ life. I have a good idea. Let’s collate the stories so we can put them all together in one story. We do that. But, when we have just 30 minutes or even an hour to teach Bible stories or passages to others, if we put all of the parallel accounts together, we only have time to teach the high points of the accumulated four accounts, and we will miss some wonderful hidden treasures within each story.

As well, those 80% in the world who need the story format to be able to remember the biblical information can barely understand the topical presentation. And for sure, over half of the world has no other way than story to remember the teaching.



Biblical Accuracy | Chronological Impact | Context Matters | Drama Speaks |
Jesus Model | Joy of Discovery | Level Playing Field | Oral Training |
Stories Reach Hearts | Story Crafting | Topical Teaching | Value of Discussion | Top^

 

 

Value of Discussion

Discussion has three types of participants, the person up front who is leading the discussion, the people involved in the discussion and the Holy Spirit who will have time and opportunity to use the story to speak to all lof the people involved.

Have you ever heard anyone preaching or teaching information from the Bible or telling things about God, and you wish you could say to them, “How do you know that?” You could say with awe, “How do you know that?” or with skepticism, “How do you know that?”

No matter what you are wondering about as you hear a teaching, the lecture style does not provide the opportunity to ask any questions while a person is speaking. You just listen, and figure they do know what they are saying, but you do not understand it.

Or you walk away thinking that they don’t know their material or wishing you could challenge them, because maybe you’re familiar with the Bible and what they’re saying, you believe is not true.

Discussion brings accountability to those people who are talking about things that are not true, as it allows you, as a listener, to ask questions to find out how and where the speakers found the information they are teaching.

Discussion also allows listeners to get questions answered when they are not understanding something. As a leader and a teacher of God’s Word, when people leave after you have taught, do you know whether or not they really understood what you were saying? Not usually.

You, as a communicator walk out and you think, I don’t know if they understood. I don’t know if they’re going to remember, I don’t know if they got it. Because when you’re just lecturing and they are just listening, you have no way to measure the listeners’ understanding.

As well, discussion allows the ultimate teacher, the Holy Spirit, to move in people’s lives. As they listen to Him, they will learn new truths directly from God. Many times during the discussion time, these new truths will be shared out loud by the participants.

Articles on Worldview, Story Selection & Culture are yet to be included on this link.