Sharing Faith Stories (an Upside Down Living Bible Study)

whats-next

Everyone loves a story! What’s more, everyone has a story, and for people of faith, everyone has a faith story.

That’s the background for my next writing project–and yes, I know Christ is For Us hasn’t even been released yet, so I might have waited before starting something new. But when MennoMedia asked me to write Sharing Faith Stories as part of a new Bible study series, I was immediately intrigued and began to dream of what it might look like. Below is my working outline for the six sessions followed by information from the publisher on this new series. I’d love to hear from you:

  • When you think of Sharing Faith Stories, what themes and Scripture texts come to mind? Am I missing something vital that needs to be included?
  • If you were to use this study series, what questions, practical ideas, and other concerns would you like to see addressed?
  • Do you have any other comments or resources to share with me?

I’m grateful for any and all feedback!

Sharing Faith Stories

Session 1 – The Power of Story

An intro session on why tell faith stories, the drawing power of personal stories that point to Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Session 2 – Paul’s Personal Story and Ours

A look at the classic three-minute faith story told in chronological order, e.g., the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:11-24. This session will include practical how-to’s on telling your faith story in a congregational setting.

Session 3 – Sharing Faith Stories in Daily Life

In this session, we’ll look at Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4) as an example of sharing faith stories in the midst of daily life. Jesus doesn’t tell his entire life story in chronological order, but starts instead with the woman’s life experience and engages her questions as she comes to a new appreciation of faith.

Session 4 – Sharing Faith Stories with Integrity in Word and Action

Just as Zacchaeus shares his faith story in both words and actions (Luke 19:1-10), we communicate most effectively when our words and actions reinforce each other. Personal stories can speak powerfully, but if our actions contradict our words, the power disappears. Actions can speak powerfully, but may also be confusing without explanation–that’s why John the Baptist sends a message to Jesus asking him, are you the one? (Matthew 11:2-3).

Session 5 – Sharing Faith Stories with Courage

Sharing faith stories is risky, for we must face our own fears, bear with uncertainty, meet with possible criticism, misunderstanding, ridicule, and in some cases and places, experience suffering and persecution. Sharing faith stories means carrying the cross and following Jesus (Matthew 16:24-26). As the apostle Paul encourages Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Session 6 – Sharing Our Stories as Communities of Faith

In Scripture, the emphasis falls much less on individual faith stories and more on the faith story of a community–e.g., Abraham and Sarah and the Hebrew people, the Exodus, the early Christian church (Acts 2:14-47). This session sets our individual faith stories in the context of the faith community where we can encourage and support one another. It concludes with a challenge–what story are we telling as communities of faith? (Romans 12:1-21).

Upside Down Living Bible study series

An adult Bible study series that emphasizes living Christian faith by following values that seem so counter-culture they appear to be upside down.

Weary of Christian faith wrapped in a flag and trapped in your heart? Tired of faith as usual? Live out your Christian faith through the lens of Jesus. Follow values that seem so counter-cultural they appear to be upside down. Each compelling six-session Upside Down Living Bible study helps us encounter the teachings of Jesus and wrestle with living out the kingdom here and now. The Bible isn’t a cookbook with solutions for every ethical dilemma, but it helps us raise the right questions, encounter the teachings of Jesus, and discover new ways of faithful living in the world. Ideal for Sunday school or Bible study sessions, each topical study covers a specific theme or issue, and comes with thought-provoking discussion questions and activities. Be inspired and transformed in your faith. Live upside down.

Topics:

  • Sabbath
  • Technology
  • Money
  • Identity and Aging
  • Sharing Faith Stories
  • Violence

Reflection/Writing Prompt: Am I missing something vital in my outline? If you were to use this study series on sharing faith stories, what questions, practical ideas, and other concerns would you like to see addressed? Please add your comment.

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9 replies

  1. Sounds like a great project, April. I seem to have this vocational hazard where I look for potential seeds to increase our generosity potential as individuals/communities of faith. Given what feels like an increase in fear and divisiveness in political discourse right now, it’s feels incredibly critical for people of faith to strengthen our capacity to be neighbourly, live open-handedly. Is there space to include how Paul uses the faith story of one group of churches to encourage another church to act generously in session 6 (2 Corninthians 8:1 – 7)? Or maybe in session 4 a reference could be made to Paul suggesting that our actions of generosity prove that our confession of faith is true (2 Corinthians 9:12 – 15). Thanks for asking…

    • I appreciate your raising these, Dori. I’ll add them to my notes to reflect on further. I’m especially interested in your example of churches encouraging another church, since most of my thinking has been about sharing faith stories with individuals/groups, and your comment helps to broaden that. Thank you.

  2. Excellent, April. Stories are so powerful. (See Jesus, telling parables in the Gospels. Masterful.) Great to see you using your God-given skills and gifts.

    Thanks for stepping up to the plate! @chaplaineliza

  3. Hi April, Congratulations on another new writing project! This looks really great to me … your outline seems to unfold so naturally, like a blossoming flower. :o)

  4. First, this looks like another interesting, faith-building project. I’ll be anticipating the finished book. Two comments, if part of the goal is for people to tell their own faith story, it may be useful to give a brief outline of how narrative storytelling works: the opening, the rules change, the middle way of confusion, then beginning to understand the new way, finally resolution / meaning making / the decision to enter comfort with uncertainty. Secondly, from my perspective, it is important to understand that not everyone has earned the right to hear my story or it may not be safe to share in certain settings.

    Wishing you grace and wisdom for the writing process,
    Kathleen

    • Thank you, Kathleen. It seems to me that the story of Zacchaeus fits well with your outline of narrative storytelling, so I see a point of connection there. The other concern for how much to share and with whom is another important consideration–I had been thinking mainly about the courage it takes to share faith stories, and not about those places and times we might not share. I need to think more about that aspect and am grateful to you for raising it. I so appreciate your comments.

      • The story of Zacchaeus does fit this outline. But, I cannot take credit for this narrative outline, I first encountered it in Joseph Campbell’s idea of the hero’s journey in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” More recently it has been adapted by, among others, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, and Pixar (“Creativity, Inc.”).

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