Annabel Robinson has been the editor of our free digital Bible reading guide, theStory for 10 years! We appreciate how she’s worked with a team of writers to help our readers connect with Jesus and His Story. We asked her to share her approach to writing (and editing) this Bible guide so that you can see how much goes into making this free resource.
What is theStory?
TheStory (yes, all one word, with a capital S in the middle) is the name for our free, online, Bible reading guide. Every day subscribers receive a Bible passage for the day with sections inviting you to Read, Reflect, Respond and Remember.
A Bible passage is provided in the email so you can quickly read it there. We work systematically through the Bible one book at a time.
An experienced Bible teacher shares a reflection to help you understand the passage and consider what God might be saying.
This is a prayer to spark a conversation with God.
Each week there is a memory verse that we encourage you to memorize from the passage we are studying.
Once a week we send out some questions based on the past week’s readings to help you reflect deeper on the passage. This also works great for small group discussions or studying the Bible with others.
When we started this project, the goal was to help younger Canadians (18-40 year olds) read the Bible daily. Another goal was to help our readers discover that the Bible is truly one big Story – and to help them read the entire Bible.
TheStory’s target readership is people in the 18-30 year old bracket, but in fact people of all ages read it and enjoy it.
You can sign up and get it in your mailbox each morning.
How I became the editor of theStory
I first became a Christian at a Scripture Union camp when I was a teenager. My family did not attend church and did not want me to be involved with a church or youth group. From the time I was 16 till I went to university at 18, my only connection with anything Christian was the Scripture Union Bible reading guides (called Notes for many years).
As I read used the Bible reading guide daily for two years I grew my own faith on the Bible.
It was hard. But looking back, I think God knew what he was doing with me. I loved the Bible, which had come alive the moment I became a Christian and was now becoming more and more meaningful to me. Scripture Union helped me form a truly biblical faith.
At 18 I went to Oxford University, joined the Christian Union (IVCF), and flourished as a Christian. I made many Christian friends–including my husband! Many of us have kept in touch.
I have also kept in touch with Scripture Union. I’ve been writing for Encounter with God (one of our printed Bible reading guide) for many years. When Lawson Murray became president in 2010 I contacted him because I was interested in the topic of his thesis, Bible engagement. Out of that meeting in a Tim Hortons coffee shop came the invitation to edit theStory. I didn’t hesitate in accepting. I knew it was something I would love to do.
The mechanics of editing
The material that makes up theStory is submitted to us by a wide range of Canadian Christians. As editor I do what any editor does, check it for accuracy and readability, tweaking things like words, sentence structure, and paragraph length, making sure that they conform to the reading level of our target audience.
Editing for Theological accuracy
I also need to make sure that the content is suitable for all SU readers, regardless of their denomination, and in accordance with the SU statement of faith. You can find more about Scripture Union’s aims, beliefs and working principles at content.scriptureunion.org.uk .
The statement of belief includes the following statement about the Scriptures:
We believe that the Old and New Testament Scriptures are God-breathed, since their writers spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; hence are fully trustworthy in all that they affirm; and are our highest authority for faith and life.
I try to make sure that nothing we publish goes beyond this statement. (That includes what we say on this blog, btw!)
This is the aspect of editing where I spend by far the most of my time.
TheStory sees the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation as the story of how God has created, sustained and redeemed the world. It is a story with many twists and turns, but every part of the Bible fits into the overall story. I edit with an eye to how the “Reflect” sections comply with this. It’s crucially important that they observe not only their immediate context but also this overall context.
An example of what I mean will make this clearer. Suppose today’s reading was about the woman who put a few cents into the offering at the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44 NIV).
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
This would not be the place for a note on tithing—how we are challenged to give to God one-tenth of what we earn. The point of this passage is Jesus’ praise for a widow who gave all that she had to God. It fits into the grand scheme of the Bible by showing us God’s character as seen in Jesus. We see in it his love for someone who was a nobody in the eyes of people around her. We see it in her love for God that laid everything at his feet, trusting him to provide for her. That is what Mark wants us to see. It is not a passage about tithing.
I try to maintain a balance between
- providing factual background: important details that impact our reading of the passage – like who, what, where, when and why.
- drawing attention to what the passage has to say about God and the people he has created, and
- encouraging us to grow personally and be transformed by what we read. This includes times of repentance, thanksgiving and worship. It includes changing the way we behave as we grow in love for God and for one another.
We need the factual background in order to understand what we’re reading. We need to learn about God, including things that surprise us from time to time. We need to take it all to heart and allow the Holy Spirit to change us into the Christ-like people he created us to be.
Different parts of Scripture invite different types of comments. You won’t find all of this in one day’s reading. Stick with us and my prayer is that over time you will experience the life-giving, transformative power of Jesus as we grow in knowledge of him through our Bible reading.
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