More Than a Story – Q&A with Truth78’s Sally Michael

This has a different feel from other Bible books written for children. Why is a book of this type – and tone – so important? 

We have many children’s Bible resources consisting of collections of key Bible stories written in an engaging manner. But what seems to be lacking is a comprehensive overview covering the breadth and depth of the message of the Bible. More Than a Story attempts to fill in those gaps giving children a solid foundation of the manifold character of God; the plotline of the Bible; and key Bible doctrines in a child-friendly, engaging, yet respectful manner. It also incorporates many of the nonnarrative portions of scripture— Children need to be exposed to the wisdom of Proverbs, the comfort of the Psalms, the warnings and promises of the prophets, the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, and the reminders of the gospel and instructions for Christian living in the letters. Children need a solid foundation of truth in order to develop a strong faith in God.

While the Bible is full of fascinating and exciting stories, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is the authoritative, clear, necessary, sufficient Word of God. So, the tone of the book though appealing to children, is also respectful and honoring of the Bible. There is an appropriate sobriety regarding the seriousness of sin as well as glorious, exalting joy in the redemption bought by Jesus. I have tried to treat the truths of the Bible in manner worthy of God’s Word while still making the text engaging to children, interactive and creative. Many actual texts from the Bible are included so that children can experience the power of the Word of God as well as just simply becoming familiar with the text of Bible—God’s actual words. 

How does your experience as a Bible teacher determine the tone and focus of this book?

In my experience of teaching children who grow up in the church, I have often seen a sketchy knowledge of the Bible and a simplistic understanding of its teachings. I have also noted that it is not unusual for children from Christian homes to have head knowledge without heart engagement. 

When I write, I am actually teaching. I intentionally try to inform the mind by giving comprehensive, logically arranged, accurate information; to engage the heart by challenging children to think, draw conclusions, notice themes, interpret the text and interact with it, wrestle and to influence the will by wrestling with the implications of God’s Word in daily life.

Your choice of illustrator was purposeful, too. What kind of images did you want to accompany the text?

I wanted images that give proper respect to the God’s Word. I wanted to portray real people, in real events, in real places showing that the Bible stories are true stories that really happened in history. Showing the crossing of the Jordan River led by the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant shows that God was going before His people. Details like that portray great spiritual truth. Carefully crafted, prayerful Illustrations have the power to speak to the heart. 

More Than a Story isn’t afraid to ask children to look at sin and its effects… how do children process a topic like that? 

Children are pretty matter of fact. They don’t have the emotional baggage adults have to cloud their thinking. They more readily accept hard truth than adults do because suffering and difficulty are not usually personal issues for children but rather academic.

That said, I think it is good for children to feel uncomfortable, and even concerned about the right things. My former pastor, John Piper said, …if we don’t know what our real plight is, we may not recognize God’s rescue when it comes. [1] Randy Alcorn said, Fear of Hell serves as a merciful call to repentance.[2]

Parents today want to insulate children from discomfort. But it is good for children to struggle with their spiritual condition. We want children to feel the discomfort of being a sinner and deserving of the wrath of God. Struggle is part of the process of making faith real, of owning our sin and embracing the gospel. The cross is meaningless to a person who does not understand that he is under the just judgment of God. To minimize sin is to minimize Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. So More Than a Story does present the essence, pervasiveness and problem of sin. 

We are serving our children when we teach the seriousness of sin. Their eternal souls are at stake. But we must also pair that sober news of judgement with the glorious, good news of the gospel so they treasure the Savior, so they run to Him for rescue, so they put their trust in His work on the cross. Yes, More Than a Story presents the bad news, but it surely portrays the glories of God’s mercy, the incredible forgiveness for sin paid for on the cross, and the glorious message of the gospel. And it presents the good news as GOOD NEWS! And the good news of a merciful God permeates this book.

Perhaps the most priceless comment I received about More Than a Story came from a parent who told me his eleven-year-old sin was reading More Than a Story on his own. The dad asked his son what he had been learning by reading the book and the child’s comments was, “Sin is great; but grace is greater!” If that is what children glean from this book, praise God for His faithfulness!

Which Biblical events in More Than a Story hold particular meaning in this very difficult year? 

Rather than just pick a particular event I would say the message of God’s providence, His faithfulness to His people, the pervasiveness of sin and the effects of the Fall, and the reality of future glory are the truths that hold fast our hope in these difficult times. To know that God is sovereign and He is good; to know that all His promises are “yes and Amen in Jesus”; to know that “weeping endures for the night but joy comes in the morning”; that “this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory” steadies the soul and informs our emotions for the difficult times.

How does the New Testament volume of More Than a Story compare with the Old Testament volume?

The format is basically the same; the illustrations were drawn by the same artist; just like the Old Testament it is chronological and includes historical narratives. It tells the continuing story of God’s redemption and intentionally shows the connections between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament the application boxes are labeled, “Making You Wise for Salvation.” They give the foundation for the further personal application in the New Testament where the boxes are labeled, “That You Might Believe.” The New Testament volume shows the fulfillment of God’s divine design to send His Son to redeem man and calls the children to trust in Jesus. 

The New Testament volume walks through the gospel narratives detailing the events surrounding Jesus’ miraculous birth. Then explore His teachings, the significance of His perfect life, sacrificial death, and His glorious resurrection. In continues through the book of Acts, recounting the beginning of Jesus’ church, the work of the apostles, and the spread of the gospel far and wide. Many of the Epistles are highlighted explaining salvation in Jesus and what it looks like to be a faithful disciple, finding hope and joy even in the midst of suffering. Finally, families are encouraged to marvel together in the “grand finale” of all God’s purposes, the establishment of the new heavens and earth, where all God’s redeemed people will live forever to enjoy His presence and glorify Him for all eternity!

What are your hopes for this book?

My hope is that this book will impassion parents to take the spiritual nurture of their children seriously and that this tool will be a good foundation for them to understand how to do that. My prayer is that this book will ignite in children a desire to seek God and that this book, More than a Story, will lead them to THE BOOK, the inspired, trustworthy, precious Word of God.

To learn more about More Than A Story – click here.

[1]John Piper.

[2] Randy Alcorn. If God is Good. (Colorado Springs, Co.: Multnomah Books, 2010) 321.