The Big Picture

The Bible is not a collection of isolated texts. It tells the story of our world with a beginning, a centre (Jesus), and a goal. Grasping the flow of this story provides us with the necessary context for understanding individual Scripture passages. It also helps us see our lives as a part of this story: this is our past, present, and future. The entire Bible is given to us as a lens through which to interpret all of life and society. So we must ask: What helps students get an overview of the biblical narrative? What helps them understand individual texts, themes, and their lives in light of the whole revelation of God?

Let me share with you some approaches:

_Biblical overviews

In February, I joined a student weekend of GBU France on the theme of what it means to be human. Besides Bible expositions and workshops, they included three Biblical overviews in their training. In one such overview, for example, the biblical theology of work was explored. How is work a part of God’s good creation? How was it affected by sin? What does the New Testament have to say about work? Based on a work sheet, the facilitator led the students through phases of group study (looking up and discussing relevant Scripture passages) and plenary interaction. Helping students trace themes through the Bible is one great way of teaching them to think in terms of the big picture!

_Reading through the Bible.

Some students in IFES do this regularly. A student from Martinique shared that for the past three years, she has been reading through the Bible once a year. Others have never done so. How can we encourage them? Reading plans (e.g. the M’Cheyne plan) can help. One German student group initiates a new reading group every year. Those who join meet once a week to discuss what they are reading – a strong motivation to keep going.

_Facilitating Access to All of Scripture.

We all have the tendency to know some parts of the Bible well, but to neglect others. Which biblical books are rarely read in your context? Which books are hard for student groups to study on their own? Teaching or developing good Bible study material on these books could help students develop a fuller picture.

What do you think helps students understand and live in the big picture? Any comments or experiences are welcome!

Sabine Kalthoff