Teaching the Whole Story of Scripture

Peter Thomas writes: All ministers want to encourage our congregations in the habits of daily devotional reading and personal Bible Study. To this end each week we publish the Bible passages for the following Sunday’s sermons. From time to time we let everybody choose from the wide variety of styles of Bible reading notes to try out – it is usually possible to obtain out-of-date issues of dated notes free or very cheaply. We give space in our services and Home Groups for folk to share what they have been learning and what God has been saying to them in their personal readings. But the most effective way I have found to draw people into personal Bible reading and study is a programme I developed called “The Whole Story”.

The idea is to inspire everybody to set aside time each day for personal Bible reading by integrating that into the teaching programme of the church across sermons and Home Group studies. At a suitable time in the year, everybody is invited to join in the exciting challenge of reading the entire New Testament over thirteen weeks. The Participants’ Guide sets a portion of the New Testament to read each day. Then the sermon on the following Sunday Morning and the Home Group Study for that week each unpack a major theme from the New Testament books covered in that week’s set readings.

First created in 2009, The Whole Story has been used successfully by clergy in a number of churches of different sizes in varying settings. Many people are encouraged because everybody in the church is reading the same thing and this inspires some to explore daily Bible reading for the first time. Publicity launching the programme highlights the advantages of reading through the whole of the New Testament with these words.

On top of the great value of reading each passage you also gain:

  • The Big Picture – an overview of all the books of the New Testament;
  • Where does it fit? See familiar passages in their wider context;
  • Filling the gaps – reading parts of the New Testament you haven’t read for years, or maybe have never read;
  • The whole book – you will read all but ten of the books in a single reading each;
  • The satisfaction of completing the whole of the New Testament, especially if you have not read every part before;
  • Discover the benefits of the habit of reading the Bible every day.

The Participants’ Guide which is given free to everybody is a simple 28 page A5 booklet giving a pattern of daily readings which take around 15-20 minutes, interweaving Gospels and Letters. Participants are invited to jot down a verse which strikes them from each reading, together with a few thoughts from the passage. People can be encouraged to share these thoughts in services or Home Groups. The Guide also includes the questions for the Home Group Studies for that week, which individuals are invited to think about for themselves or discuss with friends even if they do not go to a Home Group.

Here is the programme for the Sermons and Studies fitting in with the daily readings:

Week 1Eleven Great Reasons to Read the BibleMatthew: The Teachings of Jesus
Week 2Galatians: The One True GospelPhilippians: Everyday Christian Living
Week 32 Thessalonians: Do Not Let Anyone Deceive YouActs: The Earliest Church
Week 4Colossians: Mature in ChristHebrews: How Great Christ Is!
Week 5Ephesians: God’s New CommunityJohn: Knowing God as Father
Week 6Philemon: Forgiveness1 Thessalonians: The Return of the Lord
Week 7James on Prayer1 Corinthians: Spiritual Gifts and the Body of Christ
Week 82 Corinthians: The Marks of MinistryMark: The Good News of God’s Kingdom
Week 91 Peter: A Call to HolinessActs: The Spreading Flame
Week 10Jude: Warnings Against Godless MenRomans: Right with God
Week 11TitusLuke: Poverty and riches
Week 122 Timothy: Guard the Gospel1 John: Love One Another
Week 13Luke on womenRevelation: Christ Triumphant!
End of course1 Timothy: Three Trustworthy Sayings

Most of the sermons preached in this programme are online at www.pbthomas.com/blog under the category of The Whole Story.

The full text of the Participants’ Guide can be downloaded as a pdf file from my theology/ministry/mission blog at www.pbthomas.com/thoughts. Anybody is welcome to print copies and use without cost but respect for copyright and acknowledgement of authorship would be nice.

There are great benefits in sermon series which are integrated with wider teaching in the church. Among others I have devised, my Sabbatical studies in 2015 led to Prepared to Answer – helping Christians to talk about Jesus more confidently and wisely, boldly and effectively, This whole church programme linked sermons with workshops and other activities including topics to discuss over coffee after the service, memory verses and even exercises suggested as “homework”. The principles behind Prepared to Answer and the detailed programme are discussed in full at http://pbthomas.com/takingeveryopportunity/prepared-to-answer/. All the 26 sermons and exercises in that series are online at www.pbthomas.com/blog under the category Prepared to Answer and developments of that material are also available in a book Prepared To Give An Answer (Paperback 140 pages, ISBN: 9781784563790 Published in the UK by FastPrint Publishing 2016).

Rev Peter Thomas is Minister of North Springfield Baptist Church in Chelmsford. He is a Council Member and Trustee of the Eastern Baptist Association and Treasurer of The College of Baptist Ministers.

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3 thoughts on “Teaching the Whole Story of Scripture”

  1. Personal Bible study is surely admirable. But when we encourage our congregations (as we often do) to see “what God has been saying to them in their personal readings” (as above)—we have perhaps inadvertently raised a whole generation of evangelicals who believe that a reader-response hermeneutic is not only valid, but the only way to read Scripture.

    In my own studies on marriage and divorce this, I believe, has obscured NT teaching. Context and authorial intent are often ignored and a modern Western mindset is read back into the text. When that is pointed out many have said to me that the Bible is clear—you do not have to be a scholar to understand it—what I get from the passage is what it means.

    • Yes, I would entirely agree. Interestingly, it is particularly the evangelical *charismatic* approach to Scripture which can detach *my* reading of the text from the Great Tradition (to use Roger Olson’s phrase) of Christian teaching and understanding.

  2. Completely agree. I think you will see from my blog of sermons that I take quite a robust approach to hermeneutics. I explicitly teach my folk how to interpret the Bible and we have Bible studies to wrestle with the texts.
    The purpose of “The whole story” on the other hand is to encourage everybody to read the Bible for themselves. I would rather my people were in the habit of reading the Bible than that they felt that understanding would be too difficult or too much hard work, so they were scared of even opening Scripture.


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