Review by Kevin Hsu
Operations Coordinator for Access Partners
M.Div. Seminary student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY
Director of International Missions and Local Outreach at Urban Grace
a new church plant in Emeryville, CA (next to Berkeley and San Francisco)
The Story of a Kingdom material has been incredibly helpful in both ministering to internationals and building up the local church here in the States. I have used the material in several different ways and they all have been helpful and fruitful thus far. I have used the book to slowly share the message of the Bible with non-Christians and to disciple young believers. I have used the PowerPoint presentations to share the message of the Bible with people who speak other languages. I just hope and pray that more and more translations will become available in the near future, especially with the number of internationals God seems to be bringing to the U.S. I have used the English PowerPoint presentation to equip saints in the church to understand biblical theology and begin to grasp the beautiful plan of God as revealed throughout the Scriptures. One of the reasons The Story of a Kingdom is so helpful is that it tells the story of the Bible in a clear, concise, and well-structured format. It is biblically accurate and easy to follow.
I would highly recommend the use of these materials in your evangelism and equipping of the saints.
Review by Sam Groves
Pastor of Church on the Ridge
Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa.
You may have heard it said that 'Christianity in Africa is a mile wide and an inch deep'. As the pastor of a church plant in Pietermaritzburg (a University City in South Africa), I have found this to be an accurate description of Christianity in South Africa. Although many of our citizens profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, the low level of biblical literacy in our land is concerning. Most South Africans only have a vague recollection of parts of OT narrative; the left overs from a few Primary School Religous Education classes. Moreover these narratives are seen as old fashioned stories useful for character building or for teaching morality. The task of counteracting such large-scale biblical iliteracy is only made more difficult by the fact that in South Afirca we have 11 official languages. In other words, there are a lot of second-language English speakers.
So I was only too glad when The Story of a Kingdom (SOK) became available. This book guides the reader through the flow of the OT narrative, showing that the Bible is in fact one book with a single message - the good news of God rescuing his people through his Son. And what's more, SOK does so in a way that is clear and simple - even for second language English speakers. I have handed out over a dozen copies of SOK and many people have benefitted greatly from reading it. I asked one student to write down his response to the book. This is what he said:
'I found SOK to be very beneficial. The way in which it follows the development of God's kingdom from Genesis all the way through to Revelation has greatly increased my understanding of who Jesus is and why he came to rescue us from our sins. The book made it a lot clearer to me that the Old Testament is all about God's promises to restore his kingdom and the New Testament is about God's fulfilment of those promises in Jesus. And throughout history God has justified those people who have had faith in his promises. This book has made reading the Bible a whole lot easier for me because of the fact that I now have a better understanding of the big picture. The simple writing style made it a very quick and easy read and the brief recaps at the beginning of each chapter made it very easy to follow and remember the main ideas. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who may be struggling to read the Bible or who just wants to understand it better.'
And so would I.
Review by Heather Reid
I have used The Story of the Kingdom Bible studies in my work with ESL speakers for just over a year now and have found them an invaluable framework to communicate the Bible message.
Due to the specific needs of many of the students I work with, I use them in conjunction with a simple Bible translation and I have developed a series of work sheets to assist with observation and comprehension of the Bible readings. In this form they provide a great structure to both read the Bible and practice English language skills for the intermediate and above ESL speakers I work with. The studies allow the message of the Bible to speak clearly and the Spirit has clearly worked through them to change people lives.
In one group I was running, at the end of study 7 (on Grace in Genesis 3) one of the group members began to applaud. When asked what had triggered such a response she told us that after Study 6 (on mankind's rebellion in Genesis 3) she had suddenly realised the enormity of sin. Now that she could see God's response to this rebellion, she was overwhelmed by the great mercy and grace God has shown.
Since beginning to use the The Story of the Kingdom Bible studies, I have recommended them to many people working with international students. They are an invaluable resource and a great framework for understanding the story of God's work in the Bible.
Review by Melvin Tinker
Vicar at St. John's, Newlands, Hull
There is nothing worse than a book that is written simply for the sake of being written! That cannot be said of The Story of a Kingdom. Here, Jonathan Gibson has performed a remarkable task in presenting an overview of the Bible together with sharp and insightful biblical theology in a way that is simple (but never simplistic), and highly accessible for those with little Bible knowledge, and / or those for whom English is not a first language. Like Paul's letters, this book was written within a pastoral context - initially to reach Chinese students with the Gospel.
By the use of helpfully clear diagrams, summaries and pertinent questions for thought and discussion, The Story of a Kingdom works through the message of the Bible in terms of promise and fulfillment. There is no skimping on matters of history and geography (nothing is assumed), and yet at the same time it avoids being patronising.
Quite rightly, the course begins with the nature and trustworthiness of the Bible before opening with creation, and then moving along with the flow of salvation history; explaining the significance of the key events and ideas along the way.
Each chapter in the study guide starts with a recounting of the story so far, a statement of the objectives of the present study, an indication of the main connections and a summary.
The amount of material covered is quite breathtaking and the shear size of the book may be daunting for some. However, if used wisely and imaginatively (e.g. breaking the course up into manageable portions) it should prove no barrier to the honest disciple.
The Story of a Kingdom is useful as an introduction to the whole Bible, enabling people to see both the wood and the trees. It gives people a good grounding in Scripture and facilitates the process that allows the Bible to speak about the Bible.
I would certainly recommend this for students of all types, and it will be an invaluable resource for the youth leader and home group leader.
Review by Chris Webb
As all teachers and preachers know, to explain a complex plotline simply and concisely can be a very difficult task. The Story of a Kingdom (SOK), an overview of the whole Bible and written for those with English as a second language, does exactly that. The Study Guide is like a Bible course divided into forty four chapters, each very well illustrated and with discussion questions at the end. There is also a shorter book with a very similar format but which is designed for personal use. It would be almost impossible to sit with a group of overseas students and complete all these studies in the larger course, which is acknowledged in the preface of the book. The shorter book would be an ideal gift for students to take away and use in their quiet times and could be used well as a text from which homework can be set before a weekly group discussion. The course can either be used evangelistically with a group, one to one, or for new Christians. The only problem with the shorter book is that the chapter divisions are not as clear. A reprinting would benefit from amending this.
The course focuses on God's kingdom through the Bible, which is defined as: "God's people in God's place under God's rule and blessing." It seeks to show how God's kingdom in the Old Testament builds up to prepare us for Jesus and his kingdom in the New Testament. At the start of each chapter the learning objectives are set out clearly. The presentation is very clear and easy to teach. The book doesn't just record the plotline of the biblical narrative in simple and visual form, but doctrine is taught and response is demanded as well e.g. chapter 1 — the authenticity, reliability and inspiration of scripture; chapter 41 — the choice we all face.
This course is unprecedented in explaining the whole Bible to those with English as a second language, and how they are to respond to its message. Those of us who work with international students know that these people are some of the most receptive in the world but our time with them is limited and resources to give to them and study with them are few. The author of The Story of a Kingdom has put a tremendous amount (four years) of time and effort into producing fantastic resources with the whole book visually presented through PowerPoint and translated into simplified and traditional Chinese and Turkish. I have subsequently ordered this material and am presently using it with some international students.
Review by Andy Stovell
Evangelist with The Crowded House,
a network of household churches in Sheffield (North England).
There's no doubt that a Bible overview approach is imperative when helping someone from a 'pagan' background understand the gospel. As an evangelist working among the marginalised, I have used SOK to great effect with both new Christians and individuals from a number of different religious backgrounds. It is exciting to see them making the connections and the gospel dawn on them. SOK's straightforward layout and simplified English make it ideal for those with English as a second language - and it's not just for university types either: the one who has benefited the most from SOK is a Kurdish asylum seeker with limited education. With helpful review sections that consolidate previous truths and pithy summary boxes of the session, the SOK course helpfully builds up the Bible story and exalts Christ. The participant is brought to encounter the truth as it is in Christ, God's King, and not merely educated with facts and information about the Bible. This material deserves a wide audience.
Review by Marcia Richards
Covenant Christian School
(situated on the sunny Northern Beaches of Sydney).
Over the last five years, Covenant has been working at rewriting the Junior School Biblical Studies Curriculum with an emphasis on biblical theology. Our goal is to teach kids to read the Bible with the big picture of God's salvation in mind. The Moore College external course Introduction to the Bible and Matthias Media's The Bible as One Story have been invaluable teacher resources. These resources have assisted teachers in writing curriculum scope and sequences and creating big ideas for lessons.
In Years 3-5, the program uses key narratives as a springboard into God's character and truth. In Year 6, we seek to culminate this altogether and teach a general overview of the Bible. Students develop a time line and begin to see God's faithfulness and fulfillment of his promises in Jesus. The focus shifts to the connections between stories, rather than just the stories themselves. This big picture is often a lot harder for kids to comprehend! However, the purpose of this program is to highlight God's perfect rescue plan through Jesus.
The Story of a Kingdom (red) book has been a wonderful devotional complement to the program. Each chapter takes us approximately 10-15 minutes. In this time, one biblical truth is unpacked with a number of Scripture passages that the students can look up and explore. The explanations are simple and easy to understand; key concepts are defined and important phrases repeated such as "God's people, living in God's place, under God's rule and blessing." Each chapter has either a diagram or a picture to help consolidate students understanding.
However, the most valuable component of the book is the "Think it through & discuss" section. Students break into small groups and share their thoughts with their peers. I am often amazed by the diversity of their answers and there is ample opportunity for reviewing Scripture passages and the big idea together.
This resource has been important for teaching students that the Bible is the story of Jesus and His Kingdom. They understand that the OT is about God's promised Kingdom, and the New Testament is about how Jesus establishes God's Kingdom and brings it to completion in a new creation. The final section "God's Kingdom and Us" provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their own relationship with God.
In this respect, SOK is a great tool for encouraging school students to open their Bibles and marvel at God's big plan of salvation.
Review by Dr. Kaye Malcolm
ESL program at St Matthew's Anglican Church
Shenton Park (Perth), Western Australia.
I have used The Story of a Kingdom material over the course of a year with English as a Second Language learners. We have met every week and completed all the studies. It was excellent! The students were eager to come to each study and if they had to miss a week they made sure that I gave them the relevant material so they could catch up. The Bible passages and explanations worked very well together and they were able to understand all the concepts, which were written in clear, concise, but easy to read English.
The course was very good in that it continually looked forward to fulfilment and back to foundations of God's plan. I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to introduce people, whether ESL learners or native English speakers, to the way God works his purposes out for his people.
Review by David and John
North Shore Baptist Reformed Church
Auckland, New Zealand
We've been using The Story of a Kingdom in an adult ESL Sunday School class of about a dozen internationals. We typically cover one chapter each week, in a 45-minute lesson. The material has afforded many opportunities to discuss cultural dimensions and moreover to discover Christ in the Old Testament. The 'Story so far' section is most useful to re-establish foundations and help new people and visitors. We've found the writing and graphics to be illuminating and faithful to the Word, making preparation straightforward. We would commend this book to those seeking to spread a knowledge of our Sovereign to the ends of His earth.
- 1 Corinthians
- 1 John
- 1 Samuel
- 1 Timothy
- 2 John
- 2 Kings
- 2 Samuel
- 3 John
- Biblical Theology
- New Testament
- Old Testament
- Old Testament Theology
- Song of Songs
- Wisdom Literature