Friday, November 26, 2010


I don’t know where I first heard this story, but it has stuck with me over the years. As little Toby and his family were returning home from church, his mom asked what he learned in Sunday School.

“We learned about Moses!” Toby exclaimed, his eyes lighting up with excitement. “The wicked king was holding the Israelites hostage, but Moses and his squad rescued them and brought them out of the bad kingdom. But the bad guys chased them until they got to the Red Sea. Moses sent his squad to the hillside, where they planted a hundred sticks of dynamite. They blew up the mountain—KA BOOM!—and all the rocks that came down formed a bridge that the Israelites could walk on. The bad guys started to chase them, but Moses radioed for air support and then all the fighter jets ZOOMED in and launched missiles on the bridge. BANG, KA-POW, CRASH! All the rocks blew up and the bad guys drowned in the Red Sea and Moses and the Israelites were safe!”

The mom frowned. “Is that really how your teacher told the story?” she asked with concern.

“No, not really,” Toby shrugged. “But the way she told it, you’d never believe it!”

How many times have my Bible stories taken on the look and feel of a fable, or worse, an irrelevant and maybe even boring tale? A sixteenth century clergyman is said to have asked famed English actor Thomas Betterton why the theatre was so successful, while the churches were not. Betterton replied, “Actors speak of things imaginary as if they were real, while you preachers too often speak of things real as if they were imaginary."

So how do we present Scripture so that what is real is spoken of as real? Here are three suggestions:

1. Get struck with the awe and wonder yourself. It seems like such a basic question, but I always have to ask myself, “Am I just telling a story, or do I know deep down that it’s real?” Yeah, sure, I know that the story of David and Goliath teaches me that, with God’s help, I can handle any giant of my life. But then I start reflecting on the fact that the encounter between David and Goliath is true. It really happened! And when I relive the amazement and excitement of this historical battle myself, the lesson it teaches me becomes all the more real.

2. Use your voice, use your body, and get into it. Did you ever watch as a hunter talks about his expedition? Ever observe an athlete recalling a recent victory? They don’t just tell what happened; they seem to re-live the experience. The hunter’s voice drops to a whisper and he bends lower as he recounts how he snuck through the brush. The football star’s hands push aside invisible rushers until he throws for a touchdown, at which point he raises his hands in victory and simulates the sound of the crowd.
A children’s lesson is not a time for a dry lecture on Biblical history. The living, dynamic Word of God should be presented in a living, dynamic way.

3. Ground the incredible into reality. You may be absolutely convinced of the truth of the Scripture stories, but the kids need to make that connection as well. The feeding of the 5000 is an amazing story, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it took place in a real place at a real time. Was it sunny or cloudy? Were the clouds shaped like animals? Were there ants? A solid basis in what kids experience every day will go a long way to show how eternity intersected with our world.

As we approach our kids over the weekend, may we learn more and more ways to make reality real, to the glory of God.