Stories: Bible vs. Netflix

Robert Thomas Quiring —  February 25, 2014

RTQ“I am an expert on Jesus and Netflix,” I recently told a youth at my church.  That statement is definitely bending the definition of “expert,” but I have spent a lot of time studying Christianity and watching Netflix.  Why am I telling you this?  Because Christianity and Netflix are full of stories.  During the day, I try to teach the stories of Scripture.  At night, I watch stories that have been written for entertainment.  In this day and age, we are inundated with stories!  And we have been conditioned to be constantly on the look out for new stories, for entertaining stories, for boundary breaking stories.

With this in mind, pastors and teachers stand in front of a group at church and read stories from the Bible.  Stories that are often hard to comprehend, not new, and are boundary breaking in a very different way.  What do we do?  Proclaim that the stories of the Bible are the living Word of God?  They are, but I have found that proclamation doesn’t help if you don’t do some legwork.  The legwork is discussing stories in our world today and using different tools to delve deeper into our Biblical stories.  So, here are five ideas about how we can just that:

1.  What is the goal of the story?  Spend a class talking about what the goal of a story is.  What is the goal of entertainment? (TV shows, movies, books)  To entertain.  To reach the biggest audience possible.  To make money.  What is the goal of the Bible?  To tell the story of Jesus and God’s people.  To teach us how to live.  To reach the biggest audience possible.  How should we read these stories differently?

2.  Act it out.  Sounds too simple, but this can really make a story jump off the page.  It also adds a change of pace from reading a story multiple times.  Plan it out beforehand or do it spontaneously.

3.  Lectio Devina Lite.  This practice helps people hear the passage in a deeper way.  I just started using this again.

  1. Ask people to listen for a specific word that sticks out to them.  Read the passage. Invite others to share their word or have silence.
  2. Ask people to listen for a specific phrase that sticks out to them.  Have another voice read the passage.  Invite others to share their phrase or have silence.
  3. Ask people to listen to the entire story.  Have another voice read the passage.  Share what you’ve heard.

4.  Discuss the format of a story.  Write down the story format we’re accustomed to:

  1. set the scene
  2. present problem
  3. build suspense
  4. solve problem

Ask people to name some stories that follow this pattern?  (Jesus’ story is a cool example that may not be named)  Is this the format our lives follow?  Why are the stories we hear and our life stories so different?

5.  Make a list of different genres of stories.  Make an extensive list of all of the story genres you can think of.  What genre does Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or Modern Family fit into?  Where do classic stories fit?  Romeo and Juliet.  Where do our biblical stories fit in?  Have a list of the stories you’ve covered in the last six months and discuss what genre the story is from.  What does the genre add or take away from this story?

How do you keep Bible stories new and fresh in your ministry?

Robert Thomas Quiring

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Robert is currently serving as an Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida. Robert is a husband, father, pastor, sweet tea lover, technology enthusiast-er, and webmaster of Masterin' the Pastorin'.