If you were going to create a theological book, would you write it in narrative form?

Oddly enough, the bible, the book that tells us truth about God, is largely written as a story. God uses the stories of his interaction with people to reveal himself — his character, his activity, his passions.

Why? Perhaps it is because people connect with stories.

I remember preaching a sermon in which I was trying to unpack a specific theological issue. The congregation was slowly wandering: some were looking around, others had eyes drooping with drowsiness, one woman was digging for something in her purse. I began to tell them a story that I hoped would illustrate the point. The body language of the congregation changed in a heartbeat. They were looking up at me, they quit fidgeting, interest was apparent on their faces.

People connect with stories. So, how do you use stories well in your teaching?

Good stories create connections with the characters/people involved.

I like to read fiction. In fact, I usually have a book in progress. Occasionally I can’t seem to finish a book. If I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, I don’t care about the story. The stories we tell in bible study can have the same effect on our learners. The characters in the bible stories we tell can seem unreal; people from a remote past. Illustrations from the lives of people you know may have a connection for you, but not as much to people who don’t know them.

As you think about the story, help your leaders to develop a heart for the people you are describing. Help them to see the people as real people with real problems and real needs. When they care about the characters, they will care about the story.

Good stories involve crisis.

I don’t mean that every story has to include a global pandemic. But a story needs to have a point of crisis: a problem, issue, or conflict that changes the direction of the story.

One of my colleagues uses an episode of “Andy Griffith” in one of his classes. To my memory, Barney never ended up in the ER; he never lost everything causing him to end up homeless; I can’t even remember Mayberry being under quarantine. But Barney did cause Thelma Lou to lose faith in him. We all know the pain and guilt of broken relationships. That set the story up for a need for some kind of resolution. Good stories are more than case studies. They present a crisis that demands a response.

Good stories make a point, but they don’t necessarily tie up all the loose ends.

Peter had denied Christ three times on the night of his trial. He ran away when Jesus was crucified. He must have felt guilty and unworthy as he met Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Three times Jesus asked him, “Simon, do you love me?” Three times Peter answered, “Yes, Jesus, I love you.” And each time, Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep,” words that suggest a commissioning to ministry. Jesus forgave Peter, reinstated him, and indicated belief in him.

Theologians and commentators have discussed the meaning of this scene for centuries, but the point seems clear: Jesus reinstated Peter. When you are telling a story, you don’t have to explore every facet. Make the point.

Good stories are seldom made up on the spot. As you are planning your lesson, think about the stories that will help people get the point. Write the story down, from the opening words to the crisis to the point. Write with heart and feeling. As you tell the story, speak with passion and clarity. Your learners may forget a lot of what you say in the lesson, but they will likely remember the story.


Read More

Personal Timeline Lessons of Ministry Leaders

Kristen Ferguson
Director of Online Education | Associate Professor of Educational Leadership
Dr. Kristen Ferguson serves as the Director of Online Education and associate professor of educational leadership at Gateway Seminary. Her doctoral research at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary investigated evangelical faculty perceptions on online theological education. Her continued research focuses on online course design, blended learning, and online teaching best practices.

The Plain Meaning

Dr. Iorg discusses the simplicity of Bible interrpetation. We cannot let our disobedient hearts guide our interpretation.

Jeff Iorg
President
Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of Gateway Seminary. Prior to his service at the Seminary, Dr. Iorg was the Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention for almost ten years. He was also the founding pastor of Greater Gresham Baptist Church in Gresham, Oregon, and has served as a pastor in Missouri and a staff pastor in Texas.

Listen

Study Isaiah
October 3, 2022

Uplifted Hand Oracles and Isaiah’s Commission – Isaiah 5b-6 & 9-10a

This week on Study Isaiah, Paul Wegner and host Tyler Sanders continue hopping around the palistrophe in Isaiah 5-12. First, they cover the uplifted hand oracles and then Isaiah’s commission.
Lead On Podcast
October 2, 2022

Overcoming Destructive Habits

Dr. Iorg explains how destructive habits can be formed by looking for significance and security in places other than Christ.

Watch

Spirituality of Jonathan Edwards | JEC at Gateway Seminary

Dr. Chris Chun hosted a digital symposium with Dr. Michael Haykin and Dr. Robert Caldwell to discuss Edwards’ spirituality, devotional life and theological impact in American Christianity.

Chris Chun
Professor of Church History | Director, Jonathan Edwards Center
Dr. Chris Chun is the professor of Church History and the director of Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary. Chris’ doctoral research at St. Andrews University was focused on the eighteenth-century Edwardsean Baptists in Britain. He also has served as president of The Evangelical Theological Society (Far West Region).

Faculty Dialogues: Dispensationalism or Not

In this episode of Faculty Dialogues, Dr. David Rathel and Dr. Paul Wegner held a live discussion on their views on dispensationalism.

David Rathel
Associate Professor of Christian Theology
Dr. Rathel is the associate professor of Chrisitian Theology at Gateway Seminary. Prior to Gateway, Dr. Rathel supplied pastoral care to churches in the United States and Scotland, served as an Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy for the Baptist College of Florida, and provided teaching assistance for the University of St Andrews.

Get updates on new content!