Four Tips for Better Biblical Storytelling


July 11, 2019

Acts 7:17-22

“As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.

“At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.


Every follower of Jesus needs to be enrolled in the School of Biblical Storytelling. Nothing is more central to who we are than the story that defines us. As we move along with Stephen’s storytelling, a number of observations come to the fore about biblical storytelling itself worth noting.

1. There are Bible stories and then there is the biblical story. Most of us who have grown up in the church in North America have developed a “Bible Story” understanding of Scripture. As a result we find ourselves with a collection of stories and yet unclear at best on the bigger story they are telling together.

2. The biblical story can never be an illustration for my point, no matter how biblical my point may be. The biblical story is the point. The particular bible stories illustrate the point, but not like a collection of Aesops Fables. No, the Bible stories are more like the list of scenes or tracks on a feature film DVD. If you had twenty minutes to tell the biblical story, how would you “track” it? What would be the titles of the tracks on the DVD?

3. Bible stories are not meant to “teach us a lesson” or give us  “life application principles.” Bible stories are meant to work together to tell us the biblical story and sole mission of the biblical story is to reveal God. This takes us back to our grammar lesson a few days back. Sure, we can learn much from the stories about many things including wisdom, practical application, how to kill giants, and so on. The problem with so much preaching and teaching these days is they begin with the question, “What do we want people to do as a result of this message?” The better question is, “How can I participate with (i.e. tell, sing, teach, or preach) this story in a way that the God of the story might reveal himself? We don’t need people to glean from our wisdom. They must encounter the living God.

4. Finally for today, and we will pick up with more tomorrow, note that Stephen is not reading Scripture to the Sanhedrin. He is telling stories. He knows Scripture, but what’s important to understand here is that Scripture is not some kind of external “truth” for Stephen, nor is it his internal “happy place” of devotion. No, Scripture is Stephen’s World: Inside out, upside down and top to bottom. He is a man of One Book. As a result, Stephen can tell the story of Scripture with the same familiarity that he can tell a story about a family vacation to the Sea of Galilee. The story is not external to him. He is inside of the Story. There is simply no substitute for this kind of lifelong work. That’s what I want you and me to become: people of one book. That’s why I write the Daily Text every day. I want that to be why you read it.

And thanks for reading it by the way. I really appreciate it.




Sometimes it’s easier to pay more attention to the words people (like me) write about Scripture than the actual words of Scripture. Does that describe you? If so, how can Scripture regain clear priority?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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P. S. You may have picked up on some links to our resource called Long Story Short: The Bible in Six Simple Movements in recent Daily Text entries about storytelling. Josh McNall writes to help us see the biblical story from start to finish as a seamless whole. It’s easy to read, funny, and most importantly it draws us into the big story of God afresh. Get it here.


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