Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let’s Get the Story Straight

We live in Des Moines, Iowa. Right smack dab in the heart of America’s Heartland. We live in the city, which may not be as “urban” as other urban centers in other places, yet our two local elementary schools, both within 2 miles of the church building, have students who come from over 30 different linguistic backgrounds. In other words, we have a lot of immigrants, mostly from Africa and Southeast Asia. Many have never heard the Gospel.

While we are not as “unchurched” as other big cities, research by other groups tells us that 70% of our county is unchurched. We also know, from our own local experience, that we are living in a time when a second generation is growing up of those who have not gone to church and don’t know what it means to be part of a church.

All of this means that there are a lot of people in our immediate vicinity that do not know the story of Jesus. They don’t know who he is, or what he can do.

There was a time in this city, indeed, in our entire country, when almost everyone knew the story of Jesus. In fact, a very good case can be made, that the generations who went before us knew the stories of the Bible and those stories provided a common narrative for how we related to life and to each other. The Bible’s big story was our society’s story.

But in 2010, soon 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa, America’s heartland, we are living in a time when increasing numbers of people don’t know who Cain and Able are. They don’t know John the Baptist and they’ve never heard of Isaiah or Ezekiel or Jeremiah.

One of the things that unites a people is a common understanding of their story. In an time when there are so many different stories out there, I am struck by the need to rally our people back to basics. Back to the story of the God who created them, redeemed them by his blood, and is with them as Emmanuel, God with us.

How can we tell people who Jesus is when they don’t know the story of how humanity fell into sin? How can we teach them who Jesus is if they don’t know why they need a Savior? How can we teach them that Jesus is the Father’s rescue plan since before time was born when they don’t know the Bible’s big story? It’s time to recover God’s story. It’s time to try to get the church and our community on the same page.

As a pastor, I’m well acquainted with my own congregation’s Biblical illiteracy. Like many churches across this great land, many in our pews don’t get the Bible’s story. I’m not proud of it and work hard to correct it, but the fact remains, my congregation, on the whole, doesn’t see the Bible as one big story, but as little stories that are somewhat disconnected. And I’m not going to exclude myself from this. I fully acknowledge that I probably don’t know the Bible as well as I should, or at least as well as previous generations of pastors.

It’s time to take the congregation, our neighborhood, and our city, back to the basics. To teach them all the message, the story, if you will, of the Bible.

And so we shall. In January, we begin preaching through the Bible. We’ll use some materials by Zondervan called The Story. Basically, The Story is the Bible read like a novel in 31 chapters. It is my hope that understanding the story will ignite a fire in our bellies to really dig into God’s word and to understand that the Bible isn’t a bunch of separate books, but one big book that shows us that God is with us and always has been.

I hope everyone at Zion will purchase The Story book. It is available for kids, for teens and for adults. If you can’t afford it, we will provide it to you free of charge.

If you are in the Des Moines area, we invite you to come and join us. We’ll start on January 16. If you’re not a local, please consider this your invitation to join us by pod-cast. See our website for details. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

For more information about The Story, please see: or the abbreviated version at or