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Church - Pastors
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Church - Pastors
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Devotions

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Youth - Children

 

Journey of a USA Pastor-Teacher Into STS



A pastor, author and leader in reaching international students attended a Simply The Story January workshop in California, USA.  The following letters chronicle his discovery and use of STS in the USA.

January: Thank you for all you did this past week, for hosting me, the training and the friendship.  I am in your debt.  Although I'm not nearly at the level of an STS trainer, I hope to pass on the concept and technique -- as much as I can "master" it -- to others.

Every time I do STS at our church (I'm thinking when I begin with the adults), I can do that or kids at Awana and/or the youth group. Now that I have the bigger picture and the specificity of the questions and how they work, I'm sure I will only improve over time.

Many thanks again. I appreciate knowing colleagues in God's work like all of you who are stepping out with creativity, passion and vision.  I will carry my part as an advocate as God brings opportunities my way. Blessings to the whole crew in Hemet.

Bill                                   



February: [Bill phoned to tell us that he used STS at a Jr. High youth meeting.  He said, “The girls stayed interested but the boys tuned out.”  After inquiry it was discovered that Bill wrote out his questions and read them!  (In STS style we show people how to tell a Bible story and ask prepared questions, all without notes. This is all oral style.)  After some persuading, Bill said he would try presenting without any notes, something brand new to him.  Days later he phoned again and told us, “I did it without notes, and the kids loved it.”



March: Guess what I did?  Something I've never done before: I booked myself to speak on Easter Sunday at our church without realizing the next Sunday WAS Easter!  How dumb is that?!  Well, Easter‘s approaching fast and I need to cook up something good.  So I started thinking that maybe I could do a Resurrection story STS style (or as close as I can get it).

Do you know if anyone else has done it on Easter?

Right now, I'm considering either Matt. 28:1-8 or Luke 24:1-12 or John 20:19-29.  If you've got a handle on one of these, please fill me in.  I realize I'm taking a big leap of faith on this one because most believers come on Easter not only with high expectations to hear something that will really lift them up, but also because they are well familiar with the Easter story.  So I could be setting myself up for trouble.  But the more I think about it and pray about it, I'm thinking the Lord is wanting me to proceed.  So if you've got any suggestions, I'm all ears.  Thanks!

Bill                       



[We responded... All your potential selections look exciting.  Although you can do a story outside of the typical Easter sections, I am thinking this.  When tampering with traditions (traditions which can be good and meaningful to all of us.) it may be better not to change too much in one delivery.  I have seen chapter 28 Matthew done.  It had more than could be covered in one teaching, but was good.

Any of those passages you selected would be great.  When reviewing them and reading through the passages I noticed how interesting John 20:11-21 might be to use for STS.

Intro material: Mary went to tomb Jesus not there, she ran told disciples. Peter and John went and saw empty tomb then went home. Story begins.

Some observations could be about the disciples. It says in John 20:9 “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.”  They saw, but didn't truly get it, I think.  Mary didn't get it either.  The empty tomb is not enough.  It was not until she heard Jesus call her name that she finally believed.  Why cry?  Why not cry?  When from this story do we truly understand?  The facts didn't do it.  It had to become personal. There is a lot in verse 19 as well.  Peace and being sent, love without knowing everything then greater love.  Acting on what becomes real to us. This is an Easter passage not so commonly used.



OK, I went thru vs. 11-21 and got it.  Saw a huge contrast between Mary seeking (a dead) Jesus (in her mind), but still seeking vs. the disciples cloistered up in the sealed upper room.  Jesus rewards her by revealing himself to her first.  Lots of other inconsistencies in Mary's behavior as well, but again, she's the loyal/faithful/loving one wanting to be near him compared to the rest.  Jesus' behavior is always gracious/kind/gentle, even to the disciples whom he must seek out.

To fully develop this story to get to the personal/interpersonal, I have 4 times as many observation Qs than application Qs.  The app Qs have the potential to be extremely powerful, depending on what the Spirit does as we go through the ob Qs.  So due to this potential and limited time, I'm not pressing it more than that.

Things that hit me:
  1. Christ's resurrection changes negative circumstances in our lives (a la Mary's change).
  2. Christ's resurrection changes relationships ("my brothers", "my God and your God", etc.).
  3. What really blew me away was Jesus' statement about sending us out as the Father sent him out.  This immediately follows him showing his wounds, which is sandwiched with the 'peace to you' statements.  That's how he sends us out.  Unbelievable!

So I've got at least a core of good stuff.  Almost got the story learned too.  Will be perfecting that all next week.

Appreciate the insight & training.  One step I discovered that I was shortcutting was not identifying the observations & application points first, and then turning them into questions.  Corrected it this time.  Made the process clearer and easier. I'll continue to use this method.  Lot's of fun! I'm planning on exposing our staff to it at our staff retreat in May.

We'll see how God shows up on Resurrection Sunday!  Have a great weekend.

Bill



March: OK, here's what happened yesterday at our church on Resurrection Sunday.  We had about 60 in the congregation.  We had about 10 first-time visitors, almost all of them due to the invitations my kids extended to their peers and co-workers.  I was able to present the story (John

20:11-21) in a very effective way.  I had the whole thing down, with the exception that I missed the part where Mary thought Jesus was the gardener.  I was able to mention that later as an inadvertent omission, so no harm done.

Then I asked for a volunteer.  A 30-year-old sometimes spastic woman who sits on the front row, and has brain-damage from a car wreck when she was 18, volunteered before I could say no.  (The only other volunteers were kids, and I was looking for an adult.) She was already in her wheel chair and turning around to face the audience.  Maybe not your first choice as a volunteer and she has self-control issues frequently.  So she took the hand-held mic and began retelling the story going all the way back to Jesus entering into Jerusalem on a donkey!  I thought I was in trouble but she finally got around to some of the parts of my text and finished in a couple of minutes.  I thanked her and we clapped, and then I pulled everyone back to our story.  We walked it through successfully.  They all listened well and participated in reconstructing it.

Then I began asking the observation questions.  This continued to open them up.  They were making connections not easily seen in the text.  The contrast between a seeking Mary and a frightened group of disciples holed up in a sealed room was enlightening.  So was the quality of the Lord when he rebuked no one for their lack of faith.  By the time we got to our application questions, I would estimate that about half of the group were verbally engaged in the dialog.  The idea of not needing to cry/weep at horrendous times in life (like Mary, when the angels and

Jesus asked her, why are you weeping?) was highlighted when Linda, wife of one of our deacons, shared her experiences with the Lord when her husband Bill (they're very close friends) almost died of a very rare and incurable disease, which is currently in remission.

It all came together.  I was able to follow-up on some questions immediately with additional ones that I had not thought of previously with good success. Even some of our visitors (I have no idea where they are spiritually) were responding with answers -- virtually all of them correct or good.

At one point, one such visitor gave the opposite answer that I was looking for, but that was because I had structured the question poorly.  When I rephrased it more appropriately, he got it.  Later he apologized for the wrong answer, and I said that it was OK, that I didn't get them all right in the beginning either.  We both laughed.

Feedback: of the adults that I heard from, all were extremely affirmative except two: a friend who's kind of AWOL spiritually, and my father-in-law Jud who admitted that while the Q&A approach is not his favorite way to learn, he knows it has its merits, seeing it work with the young people.

Two young high school kids on our street, Mark and Adam, were there, and they rode home with Jud.  All they way home he said they talked and talked about the story.  They really got it, and said they would have stayed longer to hear more.  These two boys are nowhere spiritually as far as anyone can tell.  Other young people in the audience said virtually the same thing, as did many adults.  My 21-year-old daughter Linda said, "Dad, it was fantastic!  You should just scrub all the guest speakers that come in and you should just do this every week!  It would be so good if you did!  People were jumping in with answers, their bodies were into it with head nods and arms going."

One father of 4 said, "Man, I could use this at home with my kids in family devotions."  Two younger kids in the audience, ages 8 and 10 were right there answering questions right along with the adults. They're newly saved 31-year-old mother (I'm discipling this family weekly) said, "It was great, Bill!  I loved it!"  A fee had reservations but most, including my dad and my mother (the more outspoken of the two), really enjoyed it.

Anyway, the upshot is that it was a huge success.  In talking again later with the father of 4 (above), he said, “When you consider Mary's background being possessed by 7 demons, etc., if you brought that into the story, it would add even more depth.”  I responded. “If the Bible were taught chronologically in this STS fashion, and we all had a base or pool of knowledge from such stories that we all shared, then we could add such elements into the mix, and you are correct, it would have an even greater impact.”  Everyone listening to this dialog immediately understood how this would work and seemed to be intrigued at that possibility.

After church a bunch of us came back to our place for lunch, including my father-in-law Jud.  In a follow-up conversation with him, I explained it this way, “The difference between this approach and a more literate approach is that with the former, we treat the Bible less as a book to be deciphered and dissected, and more as a record of events lived out in the framework of historical reality.  In this framework, we begin to see events as live, with undercurrents of parallel realities (such as the emotions of the people involved, the spiritual connections, etc.) to be discovered along the way.  He thoroughly agreed with me on this point.”

Thus, I plan to use it more at church and to continue exporting it as much as I can.  Even though my wife hasn't really seen me do this yet, she marvels that I have the flexibility in continuing to learn ways I can teach and share the Bible with others.  It's indeed a tremendous privilege to be able to continue learning and developing myself into what God wants as I learn his Word better.  So count me as one of the devotees!  I want to make good on your investment in me.  Blessings to all.

Bill



[Wife’s April write up in their newsletter.]   Bill suddenly flew to Southern CA January 14-18 for training in a new interactive storytelling technique that is having a huge impact around the world. Immediately upon his return, he began using it repeatedly with our church’s youth group and then 2 Awana (Bible) Clubs. The response: they all loved it! He then debuted it with the adults on

Easter/Resurrection Sunday’s message with the same results. The developer of this model felt so strongly about getting Bill there that she paid for half the cost of the trip! That made it affordable enough for him to go. Now he’s passing it on to others. Our thinking is that this could revolutionize Bible teaching among international students and scholars around the country. He’ll be teaching it to our staff at our retreat this coming May.]



April: I spoke again at our church in our teaching service to the adults yesterday, and I did Martha & Mary a la STS. Here's what happened.

Having heard me do this style of teaching last month for Easter Sunday, they were primed. I told the story without any errors. Then I asked for a volunteer to come up and retell it. An International student from Haiti (a friend of my daughter's) studying nursing came up and retold the almost flawlessly. She was grinning the whole time. She had never been on stage before. Then we walked through the story without any trouble.

After that I began asking observation questions. By this time they were off and running. There were so many comments and so much feedback that I could barely get in my next question! I estimate that of a group numbering about 50, well over half, maybe 75%, were all verbally engaged and contributing. (Realize that our group is very well taught in the Scripture.) Even the quieter types were into it. And so many interesting and humorous points came out, ones I never thought of. Like this: when I asked what Martha could have done differently, one person said, "She could have told Jesus to speak up! so she could hear from the kitchen.”

Another point I never thought of was what the disciples might have thought when Martha came out and told Jesus what to do. We went with that, and one insightful and knowledgeable friend said, "The disciples missed understanding so much of what Jesus said. They heard Jesus talk all the time. They were with Jesus all the time. They had seen so many different responses to him that Martha's little fit probably didn't even register to them."

After 45 minutes and most of my application questions still not asked, I knew it was time to quit. But I also knew that we could have gone on easily for another 45 minutes. The discussion intensity never let up. The only complaints I heard were that I didn't call on them enough when their hands were raised. But that was because so many hands were raised that time wouldn't let me acknowledge them all!

Afterward I went up to two fellows who were there for the first time. The first was the son of Wycliffe Bible Translators missionaries. His mother grew up in our church. He's in his early 20's and absolutely loved it.  He was familiar with this general kind of storytelling, having come across it through his parents. He said he'd be back for more.

Another first-time visitor was an older man from Jamaica. I didn't know him, but I knew the Jamaican lady he sat with. I asked him how he enjoyed the service, and -- get this -- he gave me a big hug! After he released me, he said with sparkling eyes and a grin from ear to ear, "Fantastic!! It was amazing. So clear! I could understand everything! Thank you, thank you." I think he is a brother in the Lord, he appeared to be.

A week from tomorrow, I'll be doing STS at another church's youth group. The group leader told me that the average reading level of his group is about 4th grade. "No problem," I told him. "It won't matter." I told him how it works, and he is very interested in seeing it. Stay tuned.

On another note, before I went to church yesterday, an email came in inviting me to go to the country of  XXX to speak at a huge Christian University: I think taking STS to them would be wise.  Would you be interested and/or able to join me in going there?

Bill



May: Here's the latest So. Fla. update re STS.

First, at the end of the month we will be having our InterFACE staff retreat near Washington, DC.  Most of our staff will be there.  I will have 90 minutes to debut STS.  I'll do a story and then debrief with them.

Second, immediately following that is the ACMI Conference.  This was to be the first ACMI in over 15 years that I had no speaking responsibilities, that is until today.  I just got an email confirming they want me to do a workshop to fill a vacancy.  It will be in the largest (general session) room at McLean Bible Church!  I suggested two possibilities: (1) a repeat of my keynote talk from last year's ACMI introducing the Generational Model (Recon) for ISM, or (2) an  introduction to STS.  They chose the latter.  Following are my workshop title and description:

=============

Workshop title:   Bible Stories Like Never Before



Workshop description: Tired of seeing that glazed over look on students' faces when they're in a monologuish Bible study?  Hit the wall with a literate approach to the Bible?  Want to see the Bible come alive like never before?  Want internationals to energetically interact and remember Bible stories after only one session?  Then this workshop  is for you.  Bill introduces a brand new interactive Bible storying approach that is sweeping the globe.  Close your Bible and get into it all over again.  Introductory manual available via email.

============

I wrote it in a deliberately provocative manner.  I will clearly state that I am not an STS certified trainer, but I am a growing practitioner.

Third, that lady in church that wants to do an STS style story at our next Awana Bible Club is going with Bartimaeus instead of Nicodemus. She's learning the story now.  I'll be working with her.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Fourth, my father-in-law (nearly 80) called me today.  If you remember, he's one of only two who gave me "not-quite-positive" feedback after I debuted STS on Easter Sunday back in March.  Everyone else said, "More! More! More!"  Anyway, some older men get together on Tuesdays in the snack shop area of the thrift store owned by the other pastor in our church.  It includes WW2 vets who are not believers and some other local guys.

On the phone today he said, "Bill, I wanted you to know that ever since you started telling stories at church, at our men's meeting [in the store] we keep coming back to discuss the latest story you told [at church].  I know guys like you who teach and preach often wonder if any of it is sticking.  Well, I can tell you this is.  Frankly, I've never seen anything like it.  We really get into it, and it's surprising how many more things we find!  And I wanted you to know that it's having an impact.  You know, when you first started this I told you that it wasn't my favorite way to learn.  But now ... I like it.  I like what it does."  I thanked him for the update and affirmation and said that it can't be bad when a bunch of guys sit around discussing the Scriptures.  He totally agreed.

Lastly, my last STS presentation at church was Jacob & Esau.  One of the points we discovered was that while Isaac and Rebecca prayed in the story, they obviously didn't pray together.  In the audience was a newly saved married couple with 3 kids that Jenni and I have been discipling on Thursday nights.  When they eat meals, they kind of eat in shifts and everyone prays over the food individually.  So when they heard that Isaac and Rebecca didn't pray together and saw the favoritism that followed in the life of their family, they looked at each other and said, "We have to start praying together at meals!"  STS rolls on!

Have a great weekend.


Bill



More In May: My workshop at ACMI on the new interactive storytelling model went superbly.  About 50 attended. The model was enthusiastically received. We had lots of laughs as I first did the Martha & Mary story and then debriefed afterward and fielded questions. One came from the statement: Martha went from cooking in the kitchen to "stewing"! We all had a great time and the interaction was excellent. In fact, afterward, one fellow who was not in our workshop told me, "Bill, I wasn't in your workshop, but in the room next door. I heard all the laughter and wished I was in there with you." A bunch of people came up to me after the workshop and later during the conference to tell me how great it was and that they would checking out the STS website and trying it out with their students.

One younger female off to my left in the Q&A part said she loved the model but didn't think she could do it because my presentation was so smooth and professional and entertaining. I asked her if she minded telling me how old she was. She said she was 20.

I said, "When I was your age I thought the same thing when I listened to good speakers who were older. In my first stint as a Sunday School teacher of 1st-3rd graders I held the Bible right in front of my face because I was too nervous to look at the 20 kids in the room. I trembled as I spoke because I was so self-conscious. I told her the last thing I could ever do was to do public speaking, especially preaching.

"Do you see where I've come from?" I asked her. Then I encouraged her not to look at me as her finished product, but that she should step up and try it and do what she could, and ask God to help her grow in her skill level. God would take her where he wanted, whether or not it ever looked like me.  Several people remarked to me later how much they appreciated hearing my background in this area. Thanks to all of you who prayed. I definitely sensed the work of God in our midst. ...

Bill



More May: Sue, the woman whom I helped prepare to do the blind Bartimaeus story, did very well. I sat there listening as I imagined you would have.  She did a good job. I encouraged her along the way and afterwards, hoping she'll want to do it again. If so, I think I could begin giving her more tips. The kids liked the story and they paid attention.

Second, I heard back from the youth group leader of the other church.  That was the all-minority, most-from-dysfunctional-family-backgrounds and poor readers group.  That was the same one that one female made suggested that Martha could have just served "mac & cheese" when I did Mary & Martha.  That was April 29th,  exactly 4 weeks ago. The youth group leader said late last week that the kids were still talking about it and want me to come back! They're  working on a date now.

Bill



June: Here's a short STS update.  It's brief because my travel schedule is a major crunch till July 4th.  2 Sunday's ago I did the Centurion story from Matt. 8 a la STS.  Wow, what a powerful story!  The story's main point is the man's faith, so exemplary that Jesus said it was greater than anything he had found in the whole nation of Israel.  Calling him "Lord" twice, when, being a military man committed to Rome, was high risk behavior, because Caesar was his Lord.  Even with a Jewish crowd in hearing distance, he had no qualms or reservations calling Jesus "Lord," a betrayal that could have had him killed.  And this for a mere servant, no less?  What a compassionate man!

Of course, we also realized that Jesus flushed all this out of him by responding in the way he did: "I will come and heal him."  Clearly, the Centurion didn't want to Jesus to be ceremonially defiled (we had these and other points included in the intro).  And we also realized that Jesus' emphasis was all about the Centurion's faith rather than the tremendous miracle he did in healing the servant.  What does that say about all the die-hard seekers wanting this miracle or that sign today?  What amazes the Savior is our confidence in him like the Centurion's.  The story had a profound effect on our adults.  This Sunday, after I return from Atlanta, I will do it again among a Chinese congregation of adults, college-aged and high school kids.  Stay tuned!  And thanks again.

Bill



After 3 separate trips in June, here is a little update for STS.  In June I attended the National Leadership Summit in Atlanta, GA at Chic-Fil-A's international HQ.  This gathering of ~160 youth, school and ministry leaders came to hear the latest research re Gen Y (aka Millennials/ Mosaics). Speakers included nationally known ministry leaders, Christian futurist Leonard Sweet, and Chic-Fil-A researchers/leaders.

During Q&A times, I heard youth pastors express struggles & difficulties in either teaching Bible to youth and/or keeping them interested in Bible study.  I noted them and then sought them out at breaks, telling them about STS and giving them the website address.  For the ones I was able to describe the method to, all were extremely impressed and said they'd get on the site pronto.

Perhaps for the first time, late last month I was able to use an STS story (the Centurion) cross-culturally with a Sunday school class at a Chinese Baptist Church in the area.  It was a combined class of students from middle & high school, college, and adults.  I thought it went over fairly well, but the following email from one of the Sunday school teachers (a male) confirmed it.  He sent it to the friend who invited me to speak.

I thought his lesson was superb. I've never been so fully immersed in a Bible study before. The amount of knowledge that he brought was refreshing and it truly demonstrated God's abundant blessing of wisdom. I would hope that he could come back and speak to us again. Everyone that I've talked to had nothing but good things to say about him. They were inspired by how thorough he was and the deeper implications that weren't spelled out in the Bible. I also think the student leaders, including myself, would also greatly benefit from observing and learning his method of Bible study. Please invite him back!

Bill

 

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