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The Power of Your Story Conversation Guide

The Power of Your Story Conversation Guide

by Thomas Nelson

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What is your story?

We all have stories. Some are funny, some are painful—all contribute to who we are. What we don’t always see is that God is weaving an overarching story that started before time, extends through history, and will reach far beyond our lifetimes. God extends an invitation to each of us to step into His story and experience the


What is your story?

We all have stories. Some are funny, some are painful—all contribute to who we are. What we don’t always see is that God is weaving an overarching story that started before time, extends through history, and will reach far beyond our lifetimes. God extends an invitation to each of us to step into His story and experience the ongoing narrative of His Word in our lives.

In this unique DVD-based study, you will join visionary author Ben Arment and four of the most creative and effective communicators in the church today—Leonard Sweet, Chris Seay, Pete Wilson, and Ginny Owens—as they reveal some of their personal stories and expound on key stories in King David's life. You will examine the concepts of backstory, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution within the life of David and within your own life.

Step into the power of God’s story and see where He can take yours.

Conversation Guide includes:

  • Seven sessions of Scripture study
  • Daily readings for personal reflection between each session
  • Conversation starters and discussion questions to use with your small group

Intended for use with The Power of Your Story DVD-Based Study (ISBN: 9781401677237).

Product Details

Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

Read an Excerpt



Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2012 Ben Arment
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4016-7725-1

Chapter One




In every great story, there is a moment when we learn the main character's past and understand how it motivates him or her. This revelation is called the backstory. A backstory is often disclosed through action in the plot, and its purpose is to deepen the story at hand. As we discover a character's history, all the bits and pieces of the story we have already seen come into sharper focus and take on new significance. By understanding the past, we can better see the present and the future.

Everyone has a backstory. Our families of origin, past experiences, and successes and failures all dramatically affect the way we see the world. They color the way we feel about ourselves and even influence the way we see God. This makes it complicated when our backstories are filled with pain.

God wants to bring new life out of every place of pain in our lives, but we have to work with him in that process. This work can begin when we take a fearless look at our own backstories. We must acknowledge the things we have done and that we have left undone. Then we must face the pain and regrets we carry and consider whether we are willing to trade them for the good God has for us. Are you willing to trust God with your backstory this week?



1 Samuel 16:1–13 details the time when Samuel anointed David as the new king of Israel. Samuel was God's prophet and therefore had the authority to carry out this anointing on behalf of Yahweh. Read the passage out loud and invite the group to consider the following questions:

1. As a group, summarize the story in your own words.

2. Is there anything in the text to indicate that David was an unexpected choice for the new king?

3. Are there any details of the story that seem curious to you and make you wonder if there is a backstory to them?

Now read 1 Samuel 8:1–21 out loud as a group. Discuss the following:

1. Why did the leaders of Israel want a king?

2. Was that a good or bad thing in God's eyes? What did God say the king would do?

3. Reread the 1 Samuel 16 story. What nuances are revealed now that you know some of the backstory?


Watch Session #1: Backstory. When the DVD ends, give members of the group a moment to reflect and jot down one or two things that they learned, disagreed with, or found surprising.


First Impressions

Before everyone shares in the large group, turn to one or two people next to you and finish this sentence, "After watching the video about Backstory one question I have is ..."

Community Reflections

1. Go around the group and have everyone share their name and one story (from any medium—novel, TV, film, stage play, etc.) that they love to hear over and over.

2. As a group, summarize the video's concept of backstory in your own words.

3. How can your backstory be a blessing? How can it be a curse? What do you think makes that difference?

4. Do you think there is a purpose to everything that happens in our lives? Why or why not?

5. Is it easy or difficult to recognize the ways that your backstory affects how you see yourself? Explain your answer.

6. Do you think it's true that your backstory affects how you see God? Do you recognize any of the ways this is or is not true in your life and faith?

7. Pete says that when it comes to the hurt in your backstory, "If you don't ... find a place to transform (your) pain, you are just going to transfer (your) pain." What do you think he means? Do you agree? If so, where have you seen examples of this?

8. Who knows your backstory? Are there any parts of your backstory that are difficult to be honest about? Are there any parts that you are trying to hide from yourself, others, or God?

9. What connections to do you find between your backstory and David's backstory? Have you ever heard God call you to serve him in the middle of a complicated situation? What does God's selection of the smallest and youngest of Jesse's sons say about what God values? Does that sound like good news or bad news to you?

10. Have you ever been like the people of Israel and chased after something everyone else had, even though you were warned it was going to be bad for you?


The backstories of characters in a narrative reveal where people come from and what motivates them. This week, watch a movie, TV show (a pilot works best), read a short story, see a play, or listen to a song (like Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue") and pay attention to how the storyteller employs backstory. Note how the backstory affects the unfolding narrative and what truths it reveals about the characters.

What could you learn from this about how to tell your own story? Make a note of these things in your journal to share next week.


This week we have been talking about the way our past sheds light on our present. The language we have used to describe this reality is "backstory." A backstory is what good storytellers include in their narrative so that the audience can understand and relate to the characters. As we have seen from our study of 1 Samuel, characters like David are deeply affected by what has come before, but what about the Bible's main character, God? What can we learn about God by digging deeper into the backstory of the Bible? This week, we will reflect on that question.

* Day 1


In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here's what happened: At first the earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep while God's spirit-wind hovered over the surface of the empty waters.

(*Read Genesis 1:3–30 as well)


Then God surveyed everything He had made, savoring its beauty and appreciating its goodness. Evening gave way to morning. That was day six.

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* What is a common theme you find in each act of the creation story?

* What does it say about the God who created all things?

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, everything was good. The air, water, land, plants, animals, and people were all created perfectly. This is the design and dream of God. This goodness is the way God wants things to be. It is reality when it is right-side-up.

In our reality, we see a world that is broken and upside down. We see the effects of the fall as told in Genesis 3. It is important to remember that the creation story doesn't start there. Our story does not begin with sin; it begins with goodness, and this impacts how we tell God's story. It can also make a difference in how we tell our own stories. Genesis 1 asks us to consider where we think God's story and our stories actually begin. Does the story begin with blessing or curses? The answer to that question may affect more than we realize.

* Do you think beginning God's story in Genesis 1 (with goodness) instead of Genesis 3 (with sin) impacts the way we see God?

* Does it affect how we see what God is doing in the world?

* When you think about your own story, do you start it with a Genesis 1 orientation or a Genesis 3 orientation? How does your answer to that question influence how you see God, yourself, and the world?

* Day 2


Moses: Remember: you're a people set apart for the Eternal your God; He is your God and has chosen you to be His own possession—His special people—out of all the peoples on the earth. The Eternal didn't become devoted to you and choose you because you were the most numerous of all the peoples—in fact, you were the least!

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* Why did God choose Israel to be his people?

* Why would this matter to God?

When good fortune falls on religious people in our culture, they sometimes say, "God has blessed me." This can make it seem like the evidence of God's favor can be found in our success. It can lead us to believe that the "haves" in this world are somehow more special to God than the "have nots."

The passage in Deuteronomy reveals that this idea is often the reverse of how God actually works. In verse 7, God tells the people that he picked them because they were small. He picked them not in spite of their insignificance, but because of it. He did this in order to show the world his power. When Israel came into the land of promise, there was no doubt that God had been the one leading them, because they were too weak and small to do it themselves.

* Do you see God's "blessing" as being the same thing as having strength, resources, and success?

* What does Deuteronomy 7:6–7 say about those chosen to work with God?

* How can your weaknesses be an opportunity to show God's strength?

* Day 3

MARK 1:1–4

This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King, the Son of God.

Isaiah the prophet told us what would happen before He came:

Watch, I will send My messenger in front of You to prepare Your way and make it clear and straight. You'll hear him, a voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Eternal One, a straight way in the wandering desert, a highway for our God."

That messenger was John the Baptist, who appeared in the desert near the Jordan River preaching that people should be ritually cleansed through baptism with water as a sign of both their changed hearts and God's forgiveness of their sins.

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* Why do you think the account of Jesus' life begins with a story about someone else?

Mark begins his gospel about Jesus with stories of John the Baptist because even Jesus has a backstory. Through John, God was fulfilling promises and assurances that had been made generations before. God's story would reach its climax with Jesus, but those who wanted see it had to get ready. That's where John came in.

John the Baptist invited people to a baptism of repentance. Repentance means more than just feeling sorry for the bad things you've done. Instead, it means searching your life for where you have gone off track, stopping that behavior or pattern, turning around, and then going in the other direction. This is a great way to deal with any regret you carry from your backstory. To be free from it requires first acknowledging that it is there, and then turning around and walking in the other direction. Is there anything you need to turn and walk away from in order to be ready for what God is going to do next in your life?

* Is there anything in your past you need to leave behind?

* What could make that difficult? What could make it easy?

* Pray. God is near.

* Day 4

MATTHEW 1:20–23

Now when Joseph had decided to act on his instincts, a messenger of the Lord came to him in a dream.

Messenger of the Lord: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to wed Mary and bring her into your home and family as your wife. She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else—rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworking of the Holy Spirit. She will have a son, and you will name Him Jesus, which means "the Lord saves," because this Jesus is the person who will save all of His people from sin.

Years and years ago, Isaiah, a prophet of Israel, foretold the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:

A virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and His name will be Immanuel (which is a Hebrew name that means "God with us").

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* Who chose Jesus' name?

* Is there anything that makes you wonder if Jesus' names have a backstory?

Both of the names given in this passage have a connection to the Hebrew Bible. The first, Jesus, is a cognate of Joshua. In the Old Testament, Joshua led Israel out of the desert and into the promised land. God kept his promise through Joshua and what he did through Jesus was similar and yet much, much bigger.

The other name given is Immanuel. This is a reference to Isaiah 7:14, when God assured the king that he cared for his people even when they were being threatened. Jesus' name, Immanuel, is meant to evoke that whole story and communicate again that what God did through Jesus was both similar and much, much bigger.

* Can you think of examples where Jesus acted to save people during his ministry?

* Can you think of examples where Jesus protected people during his ministry?

* How did both of these names come together on the cross?

* What does your name mean? Are any parts of your character revealed in your name?

Chapter Two




Good stories have good characters. We recognize good characters because we can relate to them. Whenever we empathize with a protagonist or antagonist in a novel or movie, it is because the storyteller has developed that character well. However, we usually access a story through only one character's perspective. This person is called the main character and we see everything that happens through his eyes.

Lately, there has been a movement to retell some familiar and famous stories by viewing them from the perspective of a different character in the narrative. These novels, musicals, and movies have become wildly popular and suggest that maybe you would see things differently if you came at the event from another perspective.

The same could be said of the characters in our lives as well.

Supporting characters in the stories of our lives are often the instigators of change and growth in us. We need them in order to become what God wants us to be. So, every David needs a Jonathan, someone who will be our best friend through thick and thin. We all need a Nathan, someone to confront us in our sin and brokenness. More than likely, we will also deal with a Saul, someone we consider an enemy and who may be out to get us.

Your perspective may not be the only one worth considering. As you reflect this week on the characters in your story, think about the role you might play in their stories as well. How does you community shape you, positively and negatively? Where are your areas of conflict? And how might God use all these relationships toward one big, good end?


Last week, the "Experiments in Story" section invited you to explore the concept of backstory by observing it in popular media (movies, TV, books, etc.). Did you learn anything about backstory that you would like to share? How did your observations about backstory help you understand how to tell your own story more effectively?



"Studying the Story" this week invites you to observe key character relationships in an infamous story from David's life: his encounter with Bathsheba.

Read 2 Samuel 11–12 out loud in a group. After you do, consider the following questions:

1. Who is main character in the story? Why did you answer the way you did?

2. The story is about an event in the life of David. From his perspective, what role did each of the following people play in his story?

* Bathsheba

* Nathan

* Solomon

* God

3. What role did David play in their stories?

4. Does looking at this story through the perspective of each person change how you read the story?


Watch Session #2: Characters. When the DVD ends, give everyone a moment to reflect and jot down one or two things that they learned, disagreed with, or found surprising.


Excerpted from THE POWER of YOUR STORY by BEN ARMENT Copyright © 2012 by Ben Arment. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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