A Review of Kevin DeYoung’s “The Biggest Story”

DeYoung, Kevin. The Biggest Story: How The Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden. Crossway, IL, 2015. 129pp. $14.98


Few parents and probably fewer kids have spent time thinking about the big picture of the Bible. Sure, we’ve all talked about Adam and Eve eating the fruit, David killing Goliath, and Peter walking on water, but most of us have never thought of those stories a whole. We treat them more like a collection of short stories than as chapters in massive narrative with major themes that crescendo with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Seeking to help our kids and us grasp the “Big Story” that makes sense of all the other Bible stories, Pastor Kevin DeYoung released The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings us Back to the Garden earlier this year. Working together with the artist, Don Clark, DeYoung faithfully retells the big story of the gospel in a clear, concise, and colorful manner that will benefit both parents and kids.

The Biggest Story

Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden, DeYoung recounts the story of fall. He then The Biggest Story 2touches on Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets. Describing how each man failed to ultimately crush the snake. Though they led well at times, they and God’s people were always overcome by sin and never returned to the garden. DeYoung clearly shows his readers that they – as the people before them – can’t make way their back to God on their own. But thankfully, humanity is not left alone. Christ arrives on the scene as the perfect deliverer, judge, and conqueror. He crushes the snake’s head and leads his people back to the Garden via the cross. As DeYoung writes:

Our story is the story of God doing what we can’t, in order to make up for us doing what we shouldn’t. Christ suffers for our sin, that we might share in his sinlessness.

And so deliverers are born to die. Things fall apart so they can come together. God kicks his own people out of Paradise and then does whatever it takes to bring them back – p.107.

DeYoung then focuses on how the Holy Spirit empowers believers to interject elements of the garden into today’s world through godly living. Lastly, he extols his audience to eagerly anticipate the wonderful day on which Jesus will return, ushering all of his people into paradise.

Strength And Weakness

website ready book the big picture interactive storybook bibleAdmittedly, DeYoung’s book is not as thorough as the Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook. Joseph gets a sentence, Hosea is never mentioned, and Jesus’ earthly ministry is reduce down to one page. If you are looking for an in-depth kids’ Bible study that covers all 66 books in detail, you will need to look elsewhere. Checkout the afore mentioned Big Picture Bible or grab a copy of Long Story Short and Old Story New by Marty Machowski. And readers shouldn’t be too surprised by this reality, given the books purpose.

The Biggest Story is not meant to be commentary; it’s designed as an overview of the scriptures. The book could almost be said to be the kids’ version of The Message of the Old Testament and The Message Of the New Testament by Mark Dever. Both adults and kids benefit from both in-depth studies and overviews of the Bible. We shouldn’t lose the tree for the forest nor the forest for the trees. As a helicopter soaring over the forest of scriptural narrative, The Biggest Story delivers.

Conclusion

Using only 10 chapters and 129 pages, DeYoung has captured the heart of the gospel message by exploring the themes of sin, repentance, and restoration as found the biblical narratives (A phenomenal accomplishment, especially for a preacher!). The book can easily by read in under an hour. I would encourage parents with preschoolers and gradeschoolers (and/or those looking to understand the grand scheme of the Bible) to purchase a copy of this delightful book. There are few better resources.

Three Great Apps For Kids

amazing apps for kidsKids love phones. Just ask my 14-month-old. Every day, he happily squeals “Yeah!” as he chases down his mom’s Iphone. He finds pure joy in watching himself on the miniature screen.

We shouldn’t be too surprised that our kids love technology. Most of us grew up with playing video games (Pong, Game Boy, Nintendo, etc).  And many of us can remember the day our dad brought home the family’s first computer. We are a technological people.

Tom Rhainer QuoteAs our kids follow in our footsteps, we need to provide them with some guidance. The first step is to put locks and filters on our phones, tablets, and devices. If we don’t, we are guaranteed to pick up a few unwanted charges. Even the venerable Dr. Thom Rainer (President of Lifeway) is susceptible. Beware of the little fingers!   

But we don’t have to stop with protection. We can also proactively introduce our kids to great content. Below our 3 of my favorite apps for kids:

  1. The Bible App For Kids

bible app for kidsDesigned by the creators of “The You Version Bible” app, “The Bible App For Kids” is a perfect blend of colorful fun and truth. This digital kids’ Bible comes complete with interactive stories that cover everything from creation to the new heaven and the new earth. You can have the app narrate the stories. Or you can mute the narrator and read the story to your kids. And your younger kids are sure to love the flapping birds and dramatic Bible character animations. And the best part of all is the price. The app and all the stories are free. Click here to download it!  

Click here to download the “You Version Bible App”

  1. Gospel Project App

Gospel Project App 1This is app makes Sunday school mobile. Featuring the music videos and the animated Bible stories from the Gospel Project Sunday school curriculum, the app offers your kids hours of entertainment/instruction. In addition the app also comes with coloring pages and several other interactive games that help enforce the biblical lessons. If your church uses the Gospel Project, make plans to download this app. The app is free, but the lessons are not. You will have to purchase each quarter for .99 ($2.99 for your ipad). Click here to get the app!

If your church uses Bible Studies For Life, have no fear. Lifeway offers a kids’ app for that curriculum as well. Click here to download it

  1. Magisto

Magesto app 1My son likes movies. This app is perfect for him/us and for all parents who need movies quickly. The app automatically pieces together your videos and pictures into short films complete with transitions and music. The free version limits your videos’ length to about a minute and forces you to pair your clips with the app’s music. The paid version gives you longer videos and the ability to import your own music but is a touch pricey (A subscription is either $4.99 per month or $19.99 a year) But the free version is a hit with my little one! Its easy to use and adds some flare to your videos. Click here to get it!

What apps do you and your kids love?

Sunday School is Broken?

Sunday School is brokenReally? Who broke it? The simple but hard answer is, “We did!” Whenever we present a Bible story apart from the gospel, we break, undermine, and destroy the positive features of Sunday school. Now hopefully, you and I are not guilty of hiding God’s grace on a regular basis. But all across America the awesome message of repentance and forgiveness is being regularly missed by our church kids. If we hope to reach the next generation for Christ, we need to grapple with this stark reality by becoming even greater champions of the gospel. And here is why:

Earning F’s

A recent study of churchless Americans revealed that 60% of them have not progressed beyond their childhood faith (Barna & Kinnaman, pp. 61-62). In other words, most people who currently don’t go to church shaped their ideas about Jesus, society and the world (in part) while munching on crackers and looking at pictures of Jesus during Sunday school. And if most who avoid church like the plague thought that salvation was through Christ alone by faith alone, we would have done well. Unfortunately, this is not reality.

Learning the Wrong Things

Most unchurched people think salvation is a matter of works (p. 72). Do this and this, and avoid that movie, and you are ready for heaven. In short, bunches of kids are coming into our churches, flying around our children’s center, and then going out the door with the wrong gospel. Perhaps phenomenon explains why 90% of all 13-yr-old kids claim Christ but only 3% of our youth actually subscribe to a biblical worldview (Barna, pp. 39, 41). And when these kids grow up and want to get more serious about their faith, the largest group of them (31%) will try to obey the Ten Commandments more faithfully (Barna & Kinnaman, p. 134). They double down on their efforts to work themselves to heaven. There are no two ways about it; many of our church kids are getting the gospel.

Why Don’t Kids Learn?

Gospel-Gods-Plan-for-Me-poster-thumbnailThere are three big reasons kids aren’t getting the message:

  1. Some simply don’t listen. I had many excellent Sunday school teachers as a child (some of whom still pray for me). But as an unsaved kid, I found daydreaming about baseball and toy soldiers to be more interesting that children’s Bibles. Kids who tune out now will naturally struggle to recall the gospel when they are grown.
  2. Every kid is born a sinner. Apart from the grace of God, no kid can understand the gospel or embrace any truth. All will either think the cross is foolish or objectionable (I Cor. 1:23). And to cope with their sin before salvation, kids often either consciously or unconsciously alter the glorious truths of the gospel to make their own sin more manageable. I.e. surely I can work my way to heaven and please God without transforming faith. Now to find an old lady to help across the street to make up for stealing that pack of gum.
  3. Teachers are misrepresenting Christ. We could actually be teaching that the gospel consists of self-motivated obedience. Remember David? You need to be brave. Remember Paul? You need to be bold and sacrificial. We forget to mention that obedience can only be achieved through the power of Christ. And perhaps, we promote a works salvation because that’s what we actually believe.

Over 50% of church people self-identified more with the Pharisees than with Christ.

So, over 50% of us good church folk live as if God made us extra special holy people; we think ourselves inherently better than the unchurched (p. 179). As a result, some of us have undoubtedly stopped teaching that we are all (or were) wretched sinners daily opposing God and in need of unearned grace. And we forget that God alone saves and equips us to do good works. It’s quite possible many of our kids aren’t getting the gospel because we have taught salvation by works alone. As one lifelong Sunday school teacher recently said,

If kids are leaving the church, it’s because we’ve failed to give them a view of Jesus and his cross that’s compelling enough to satisfy their spiritual hunger and give them the zeal they crave” (Klumpenhower, p. 52)

Keep the Gospel in Church

Admittedly, we cannot keep every child from wandering off from classroom into the sea of churchlessness. Only those kids who have encountered the risen savior will embrace local congregations when grown. We are not responsible for what people hear and believe. God’s got that under control.

But God will hold us accountable for what we say.  We can and should faithfully teach the gospel. The preached word (and not our gimmicks or bands) is the hope of the next generation and of today’s churchless. Even around 23% of the unchurched get this truth and long for better Bible teaching (Barna & Kinnaman, p. 99). The gospel of God is the complete and only good news we have to offer. If we want to fix our Sunday schools or keep them humming well, we must faithful teach the gospel yesterday, today, and always.

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. – I Timothy 4:16

Works Cited

  • Barna, G. (2003). Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church’s #1 Priority . Ventura : Regal .
  • Barna, G., & Kinnaman, D. (2014). Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. Austin: Tyndale House.
  • Klumpenhower, J. (2014). Show Them Jesus: Teaching The Gospel to Kids. Greensboro: New Growth Press.