Update: Here's a link to a facilitator's guide to storying, if anyone would like to try it. This outline is used with permission from David Kim, in Atlanta, Georgia.
This past Monday, our ACF Bible study group at Duke experienced Bible-storying for the first time. What a blessing! Many times I struggle to strike the right balance when leading a Bible study. It's easy for me to teach by talking, and if comments aren't forthcoming, I often talk far more than I probably should. But this method really enables Scripture to speak for itself (a good thing, given our relative eloquence!)
For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept, storying is basically an oral inductive study. A facilitator narrates a Scripture story and then asks the audience a series of general questions to help them engage with and internalize the story, starting with facts, and moving towards concepts and application. Here's an outline of the basic elements of the study. In my limited experience, this format is an excellent way to uncover new depths of meaning in familiar stories.
Case in point: at our first study, we discussed the story of the woman caught in adultery, in John 8:1–11. Towards the end, we were exploring the aspects of God's character revealed in the story, specifically how He refrained from condemning the woman. I commented that God doesn't condemn us either, and then someone asked, "But doesn't He condemn sinners eventually, in the judgment?"
Sensing (correctly) that this was an important question, I (incorrectly) promptly launched into an abstract explanation of the moral laws of the universe, and how, rather than being condemnatory, it is totally consistent with God's character of love for Him to put a permanent end to evil. That may be perfectly true, but halfway through my monologue, I could see her eyes glazing over. As I wound down, a little feeling of despair grew inside as I realized that I had blown an opportunity to share a key truth about the character of God.
I can't remember if I threw up a quick prayer right then or not, but regardless, God stepped in to set things right. Another member of our group broke the silence that followed my attempts to patch the logic hole with a simple observation. "Well, maybe the judgment will be kind of like this story. I mean, Jesus didn't force the Pharisees to leave, right? They separated themselves from the Saviour by their own free will. And the woman--she could have made her escape after her accusers fled, before Jesus addressed her. No one was preventing her from fleeing the scene of her humiliation, from distancing herself from the one person who had the right to condemn her--and yet, she stayed."
Just like that, God transformed failure into stunning victory. I'm pretty sure my mouth fell open in astonishment as the beauty and simplicity of that insight sunk in. Of course! Why hadn't I seen it before? It all came together in an instant. Everyone will eventually face the same choice that confronted the Pharisees and the woman in that dusty temple courtyard. The essence of the judgment comes down to a simple question: will we cling to our sin and flee from the Saviour, or flee from our sin and cling to the Saviour?
Excelsior et proxior