By Mark A. Taylor
Joe Boyd says the Bible came alive to him when he was just 8 years old.
The Sunday school lesson of the day was about Jacob and Esau and how Esau, famished from a day in “the open country,” gave up his birthright for a bowl of Jacob’s stew (Genesis 25:29-34).
“Our teacher told us that story,” Boyd remembers, “and then she pulled out a thermos, unscrewed the cap, and poured each of us a serving of lentil stew in a paper cup.
“I’d never tasked lentil stew before, and it was good! It dawned on me that these were real people, with real appetites, who ate actual food. The Bible stories I’d been hearing all my life were more than stories. They actually happened.”
Boyd’s experience reminds me of a friend my mother had almost 50 years ago. “Have you read all those stories in the Bible?!” the woman asked my mom. “If all that really happened, that’s something!”
Something, indeed. But some of us have been in the church so long we’ve lost the wonder of that 8-year-old boy or the awe of my mother’s middle-aged friend. We take for granted the fact that the Israelites crossed the sea on dry ground, Daniel escaped the lions without a scratch, lepers were healed, the blind received their sight, or that Jesus, foreshadowing his own resurrection, brought Lazarus back from the dead.
And we may forget that these stories would stagger many who don’t know them.
Joe Boyd, a preacher with credits as a professional actor, learned this again when he decided to tell the story of Jesus in a one-man performance at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati earlier this year. His reenactment of the Gospel of John not only showcased his storytelling skills, it also touched the imagination of more than 1,000 who saw it in two shows April 5. Jewish and Muslim friends told him they wanted to hear more stories. A Buddhist friend said now he understands Jesus as he hasn’t before.
The experience has launched Boyd’s Rebel Pilgrim Productions into a whole avenue of ministry the company wasn’t anticipating. Moving beyond its original vision of Christian-themed movies for a mass audience, RPP is planning a series of live shows in public venues to tell life-changing Bible stories to those who may not have heard them.
If the company succeeds with its initial fund-raising goal, four shows are planned, starting later this year. The vision is to take these Broadway-quality performances nationwide.
It seems to me we need more people like Joe Boyd and companies like Rebel Pilgrim Productions—creative entrepreneurs who have the drive and the skill to tell God’s story in new ways to new audiences.
Meanwhile, we need more creative Sunday school teachers like the one who first awakened Boyd’s imagination.
Inside or outside church walls, God’s power and presence in this world can touch us with wonder. And when that happens, it’s really “something!”