A Bible Storybook: An Interview with Champ Thornton

Andy Naselli —  June 11, 2012 — 7 Comments

I finished reading this new children’s book to Kara last week:

Champ Thornton. God’s Love: A Bible Storybook. Whitakers, NC: Positive Action Bible Curriculum, 2012. 245 pp.

It’s well-done: very understandable for young children and theologically informed.

(The cheapest place to buy the book is directly from the publisher. And if you use the coupon code “Love1” during check out, you can get free shipping and handling.)

The author is my friend. He’s a sharp guy who served as my church’s preaching pastor prior to our current one. (I wasn’t a member of the church when Champ was a pastor there, but we were friends then.) He recently became an associate pastor in Delaware.

I asked Champ some questions about his book:

1. How does your book compare to God’s Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible?

In terms of reading level, I would place the God’s Love Storybook between God’s Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible. Its target age-group is preschoolers. As the author, I’m keenly aware of stylistic differences. Nearly every time I read the Jesus Storybook Bible, I am taken by its beauty. I tried to keep the style simple and fresh, using everyday, non-churchified language. I often hear familiar Bible stories told in language that seems overly-familiar so that its meaning is actually somewhat veiled. So, in the story of Jacob and Esau, for example, instead of Jacob wanting the biblically familiar “birthright,” I said he wanted to become the “family leader.” Instead of a “Levite” (in the Good Samaritan), it’s a “priest’s helper.” Hopefully, the style and language cause the meaning to be more readily accessible, especially to younger readers.

The content is similar to The Jesus Storybook Bible in that it regularly focuses on Christ, even throughout the Old Testament. There is also a commonality with the God’s Big Picture Story Bible because the stories intentionally hang together, using several biblical themes to help tell The Story. The primary theme is God’s love and grace, with God’s mission and presence as secondary themes.

2. How did you prepare to write this book? E.g., what sort of resources did you draw on and find most helpful?

Before I wrote the first story, I tried to get the Bible’s redemptive storyline clear in my own thinking. If I knew where the story began (Gen 1-3) and ended (Rev 21-22) and how the plot line connected those bookends, then I could determine which biblical accounts are indispensable for cohesively retelling The Story.

  • I found myself using a macro-structure of Scripture very similar to the one Graeme Goldsworthy outlines.
  • Other helpful big-picture resources included
  • Regular helps along the way as the stories were being written were

3. How did you choose which stories to include and what themes to emphasize? Why is the title God’s Love?

I wrote these stories for my own children. I wanted to teach them what God has been teaching me about Himself in His Word. I wanted them to see that God is a loving and gracious God. My children (and their father) sin, ultimately because I don’t believe God is good and loving. When I sin, I believe that something or someone else promises more good and more love than God. If I knew how infinitely and incredibly loving and good God is, I would be less inclined to stray from Him and more quickly inclined to return to Him when I do stray. That is what I wanted my children to grasp from God’s Word. I also believed that God’s love would serve as the best overarching theme to hold the stories together in the book. It’s that pervasive in Scripture.

I believe that God-fearing Christians and teachers often miss just how prominently in Scripture God exalts the reality of His love. When we emphasize God’s love, justifiable concerns arise—about minimizing God’s justice and wrath or about sliding into mere emotionalism. Yet throughout the Bible when God describes Himself, He overwhelmingly takes pains to identify Himself as loving and gracious. Systematic theologians posit that all the attributes of God are equally balanced in God. But God’s Word to us about Himself is largely this: I am loving (Exod 34:6ff; 2 Chron 30:9; Pss 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; etc.). Even the biblical term “holiness” (often set forward as the primary attribute of God) is regularly assumed  to refer to God’s separateness from sin. Actually, “holiness” refers to His Godness (what sets Him apart as God). Sometimes His Godness is seen in that He is sinless, while all humans are sinful. Other times, God says that His uniqueness as God is that He is loving (Hos 11:9; 1 Sam 2:2). I found Daniel Fuller’s Unity of the Bible very helpful along these lines, though I have not yet read Gerald Bray’s recent systematic theology God Is Love.

Since I believe this stunning reality runs like a rich vein of gold along the mineshaft of Scripture, I wanted to serve as a tour guide pointing out the brilliance of our God’s love all along the way, yet without downplaying His judgment. So, for example, when God kicks Adam and Eve out of the Garden, is it judgment or love? Arguably both. But when people tell this story, probably nine times out of ten, they emphasize judgment, and love isn’t even seen. What if God had let Adam and Eve remain in the Garden and eat from the Tree of Life? They would, as God said, live forever—in a condition of rebellion against Him. That would be a hell-like existence. Instead, God removed them from the danger of that eternal tragedy. That’s love!

4. Tell us about the pictures.

Dana Thompson, the illustrator, is a Christian brother and close friend I’ve known for years. Dana did a fantastic job on the illustrations, doing meticulous research for biblical accuracy (Who knew that the Philistines had feathers in their helmets?!?). I was thrilled when I learned that he was going to be the illustrator on the project—both on the Storybook (and cards) and the Student Workbook.

5. How do you envision parents and children using this book most profitably?

First, read with prayer. God wants us to ask Him to help us read His Word. He gives us prayers like “open my eyes to behold things of wonder from Your law” (Ps 119:18). We will not benefit from God’s Word as He intends without His help.

Second, as children’s comprehension will allow, read the one-page stories in sets of three. I originally wrote the stories as part of a curriculum with notes for teachers. In this classroom context, each Bible story is divided into three bite-sized chunks for teaching over three different days. For example then, you would teach David and Goliath, parts 1, 2, and 3. So in the Storybook, reading three pages at a time will cover one entire biblical story.

Third, use the “Target Truth” at the top of each page to help focus how you might apply that story.

Fourth, use supplemental materials.

  • There’s a free Parent’s Guide available online in a PDF [81 pp.], which contains review and discussion questions for each story.
  • A larger group of children might make it difficult for all of them to see the pictures (or you may detest reading stories upside down as you hold the book out for others to see), so you can use the book’s larger story-card format.
  • There is also a robust set of teacher’s notes for parents and a full-color workbook for children.
  • To learn more and download samples of the story cards, teacher’s notebook, and student workbook, just click on the “Related Items” tab here.
  • You can see samples of the stories and illustrations by clicking here.
  • A simplified Table of Contents as well as introductory comments and sample Teacher’s Lessons are available here.
  • Student workbook samples are available here.
  • An iPad app of this book with the audio version of the story as well as interactive artwork will come this summer.

I hope these materials are helpful to parents and children. All of it was the fruit of a two-year, collaborative effort with the great staff at Positive Action for Christ. Since all proceeds from sales go to Positive Action, I have no hesitation in promoting these materials.

Update: The iPad App is available.

7 responses to A Bible Storybook: An Interview with Champ Thornton

  1. I can’t get the ‘Love1′ shipping discount code to work… It keeps telling me that it is invalid. Any ideas?

  2. Jared,

    Really sorry for the troubles! We have fixed the problem here on our end, so feel free to try again. Email me [[email protected]] or respond to this reply to let me know if you experience any other difficulties. Thanks.

    Jason Ehmann
    Positive Action for Christ

  3. One more note for those interested in purchasing the Bible storybook from outside the US. The price on positiveaction.org is in US dollars and the Love1 free shipping code is good only for those in the continental US. If you are from the South Pacific, you may be able to get better shipping from our Australian site – positiveaction.org.au. Their products are sold in Australian dollars and they are also running an introductory special. Thanks.

  4. Thanks Jason. Just bought the book today for the B.B.C. family in I.F. Thanks to Andy for the tip. And thanks Champ for seeking to make God big.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Family Ministry Today — The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - August 16, 2012

    [...] Naselli recently interviewed the Champ Thornton about his new book.  You can read the interview here.  Below is a brief excerpt from the interview. 1. How does your book compare to God’s Big [...]

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    [...] You can read an interview with the author here. [...]

  3. Electronic Children’s Bibles - A Byrd's Eye View - January 8, 2014

    […] The author is an acquaintance of mine. You can read an interview with him comparing it with the Jesus StoryBook Bible and others here. […]

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