Whether told through words, pictures, sounds or actions, truly great stories communicate principle, meaning, value and connection, and can be continually experienced and expanded upon in countless ways. No one can resist a timeless and epic story. That’s why this past Saturday almost 300 people dove into our one-day Amplify event and chose their own adventure from eight growth tracks designed to boost personal experiences of the greatest story ever told.
Those growth tracks included some of the classes that have become mainstays at Amplify over the years, such as Foundations (how to grow your story), Story (how to share your story) and Empower (how to empower your story). Another favorite, Marriage (how to merge your story with someone else’s), was also back this year.
There were also several new classes. Here’s a sneak peek at those, featuring exclusive interviews with people inside the story, telling stories of the story’s stories … Whoa, so meta. (Warning: big spoilers ahead!)
Genesis to Jesus: A summary of His story.
Though the Bible often seems like just a series of parables and accounts from history, this class took a birds-eye view of creation to unearth one larger, greater story. When challenged to summarize the 39 books of the Old Testament in a single sentence, our guest teacher Rev. Bill Fullilove responded with the following: “Genesis to Jesus traces the themes of the Bible from the very beginning, focusing on how they all climax in Jesus himself.” The OT professor says the biggest takeaway is that the Bible “is one single story. It all fits together.”
“In God’s grace He continually restores mankind,” says Kyle, who also accepted the one-sentence challenge after taking the class. Through the lives of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, over and over we see mankind fail God. Yet from the beginning we see God’s plan for one man to restore Eden.
“We learned that after the Fall, man has tried again and again to restore what was broken, but that we cannot do it by our own ability… If the Bible is clear about anything, it’s that we as humans are incapable of keeping our covenantal obligations,” says another student, Adrienne. However, “the cool part of God’s covenants is … God, through Jesus, took the [punishment],” she explains. “His [promise] is to protect and provide for us, even so far as to providing for us the ability to do our portion.” God alone brings His story full circle as history unfolds.
New Testament History: There’s no history without story.
This class serves as a reminder that the Bible’s stories took place during specific times in history, and thus, we shouldn’t overlook the important historical context – the cultural, racial, political, social and religious aspects – surrounding the narrative.
“History is storytelling, where the details being mentioned have a purpose,” explains Chuck Armstrong, a profession from Redeemer Presbyterian. When you examine the New Testament from a historical standpoint, “every word in the Bible counts.” But at the same time, he cautions that historical context is “always subjective in some way, a personal experience being communicated.”
So how can Biblical stories be read objectively if they themselves are a subjective account of history? Professor Armstrong suggests using the “O.I.A.” acronym: (Observe what the Bible literally says; Interprete logical or allegorical implications; Apply what God says to actions in life.) This three-step examination method guards against taking text out of context, which could otherwise be detrimental or just straight-up confusing.
Reexamining a familiar story like the Good Samaritan, you’ll find its full significance in understanding the racial tension and religious oppression, how much a denarii was worth and the dangers existing on that road to Jericho. These historical details redefine what it means to love your neighbor and challenges compassion to go beyond just #thoughtsandprayers <insert prayer hands>.
Wisdom Lit: Live a better story.
For times when Biblical stories are hard to interpret into meaningful action, Jason Roberts enjoys focusing on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job. These three wisdom books, he says, “present real-life principles that are easily applicable and help us think practically to understand what life looks like when we live out our faith Monday through Friday.”
By gaining knowledge of simple truths and figuring out the patterns God put in place, we learn to yield certain results, live more wisely and ultimately work the system for benefit. After all, the Bible says hard work pays off! But what if it doesn’t? What happens if the late bird gets the worm, when life is unfair, and good seems evil and unjust?
The class explores the story of Job, a 35-chapter-long complaint where he curses the day of creation and demands an explanation for the cruel universe. That’s when humanity received a whirlwind response from God detailing the infinitely incomprehensible physical and spiritual realities and complexities of existence. God’s epic clap back ends with: “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” To which we say, touché.
In being humbled, we find a greater hope and trust. Jason explains that all of wisdom literature is summed up in one verse: “Fear of God is the foundation of true knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Despite our doubts and questions, it’s wise to live with reference and awe, and a healthy respect for God’s view of good and evil – that’s where wisdom begins.
Interested in learning more about Amplify? The date for next year’s event is already set! More information here.