I was asked to review this book by the publisher earlier in the fall but unfortunately between moving, a new baby, and the misplacement of numerous boxes, well, here I am. In any case, I am not required to give a positive review, only an honest one. And even though I’m considerably late in posting, I’m generally heartless about these things and I feel zero guilt so again, these words will be honest.
From the Publisher:
“The Heart of the Story will help you see God’s Word in a new and inspiring light. In the Bible’s seemingly disconnected stories you’ll discover one grand, unfolding epic—God’s story from Genesis onward, and your own story contained within it. To understand the Bible, says author and pastor Randy Frazee, you need bifocal lenses, because two perspectives are involved. The Lower Story, our story, is actually many stories of men and women interacting with God in the daily course of life. The Upper Story is God’s story, the tale of his great, overarching purpose that fits all the individual stories together like panels in one unified mural. In 31 chapters, The Heart of the Story will open your eyes to God’s master-plan unfolding in the lives of the Bible’s characters—and in your own life. Discover the heart of God’s Upper Story, and the joy that comes as you align your story with God’s.”
Who I Think It’s For:
I really think it’s for long-time Christians who have been unclear how the narrative of the Bible works.
It’s also for those who may have never picked up the Bible before. Frazee does an excellent job of introducing the context of the story without watering it down.
Could also be for lazy but honest skeptics (is that a specific enough straw man? :) who have bought into the idea that the Bible is just a collection of odd stories with no unity or trajectory and who don’t want to take the time to read something theological or apologetical in nature. Not sure if Heart of the Story will answer questions but could offer insight to the unity of the narrative.
Maybe on a secondary level, pastors who want to be able to explain a the whole or part of the Biblical narrative quickly and a little more simpler. However, that would be more for resource than for study – make sense? For study, I’d encourage you to read something like Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher Wright.
Who I Don’t Think It’s For:
A serious skeptic. Frazee is not concerned with this audience.
My recovering semi-jaded over-churched friends. Keep reading NT Wright :)
What I Liked:
That Randy didn’t do any more than he said he would. I can’t emphasize this enough. He’s just trying to tell the big picture story and it’s a big story. In listening to people over my years of ministry, it has been my observation that many know certain stories extremely well (like Jesus, Moses, and David) while being completely unaware of some other specific aspects of the story (like the exile and the book of Acts). While this may be because of the way pastors preach, curriculum publishing, Frazee is trying to fill the reader on the narrative arc of the Christian narrative.
The title. As I’ll mention in the section below, “The Heart of the Story” is what he’s focused on communicating.
Randy is a very solid story-teller and has a great pastoral voice. It’s no accident that he’s become the senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio (where Max Lucado serves).
How he kept weaving his themes of the “Upper Story” and “Lower Story.”
That he spent two-thirds of the book on the Old Testament.
What I Wasn’t Sure About:
I know the story and I like it a lot so it was difficult for me to not be critical. I imagine it must have been extremely difficult for Randy to write and leave so much out. I kept having to remind myself that he’s offering as much as he can in the space provided to tell the “heart of the story”.
For me this was a much different Randy Frazee than the “Making Room For Life Frazee” or the “Connecting Church Frazee.” The objectives of these books were very different of course and it took me the first third of the book to get those aforementioned voices out of my head.
This is part of another project that Frazee and Zondervan have been working on and that is The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People which is an abridged novel style version of the NIV (without chapter and verse divisions). If one wanted say, to make a New Year’s resolution to focus more on understanding the narrative of Scripture, I’d recommend Frazee’s The Heart of the Story then a reading of The Story (which is a campaign they did at his church).
In the end, I think for those who are struggling in the discipline of Scripture-reading and again, don’t have a clear understanding of how the narrative works, this is an excellent way to go and I could honestly think of none better deserving of your time.