The Greatest Story Ever Toured: Meet the Bible's new Ant and Dec

'We are the new Ant and Dec of the Bible.'

Paul Kerensa, a comedian and script writer for shows including Miranda and Top Gear is embarking on a nine-stop tour of England with theologian and Bible teacher Dr Andrew Ollerton.

'He is the Stephen Fry to my Alan Davies,' he tells Christian Today. 'It is a noble act in the making.'

Noble or otherwise, it will certainly be entertaining.

The Bible SocietyPaul Kerensa (left) and Dr Andrew Ollerton (right) make an unlikely double act for The Greatest Story Ever Toured

While not quite chalk and cheese, the pair certainly make an unlikely duo. And yet they will tour churches from Reigate Baptist Church to Exeter Cathedral in May and June as part of the The Greatest Story Ever Toured.

'I think he is becoming more comedic and I'm becoming more serious. It does work really nicely,' says Kerensa.

Each evening will combine comedy, music as well as insights into how the Bible's stories and characters fit together.

'The show is the entire Bible in a night,' he says. 'Genesis to Revelation, with a mass Exodus for the refreshment in the interval. A glorious Revelation of jokes.' I can almost sense the corners of his mouth twitching as we speak on the phone.

The aim, Kerensa says, is to appeal to anyone 'from atheist to archbishop'.

'It is deliberately aimed at those who want to know more about the Bible but also it is accessible enough to anyone who doesn't necessarily believe in it but is curious to know more.'

The tour is backed by Bible Society and is aimed at pointing people towards their eight-session overview of the Bible.

'It's the book that has had the most impact on the world that we live in,' says Dr Ollerton, who is author of the Bible Course. 'Our world has been shaped by the power of this text. Even if you don't believe, that's a good enough reason to do the course. It's a starting point for understanding the world.' 

He adds: 'You know those space launchers where the booster rockets fit on the side of the rocket and give it an injection of energy and then they drop away? I think the Bible course is a bit like that.

'I hope it will help millions of people around the world; that it will fire people up into a whole new realm of engagement with God's Word. I hope it will be the point of engagement and encounter to get them off the ground.'

So is the tour designed to entertain or inform?

'We are ambitiously trying to do both,' says Kerensa. 'We want people to come away knowing a bit more, asking a few question but also having fun.

'The backing of all this is the Bible Course which he [Ollerton] has created. His will is to drive people toward the course. My objective is for people to have a good time.' 

He adds: 'It makes for an evening where you come away feeling a mix of entertained and joyous but also benefiting from a bit of learning.'

So why does Kerensa feel this is necessary? Has the UK in general – or have British churches – lost a knowledge and appreciation for the Bible?

Kerensa says he is 'sceptical' about the view that 50 years ago everyone knew the gospel better than they did today. 'We always look back and think the grass is greener,' he says. But he goes on to tell of a time when he was teaching a primary school class where only about 20 per cent had heard of Noah and the Flood.

'I was a bit surprised,' he says. 'I certainly didn't expect everyone to know it but I thought a few more people would. I think we take it for granted.'

The Bible is still, this year and every year, the best-selling book in the world, Kerensa points out.

'People are buying it but not reading it, it seems. We need to find different ways of bringing it to life.'

He adds: 'The Bible is left in hotel rooms and we can often treat it like part of the furniture. So, anything that gives us a sense of what's in it and encourages people to read it themselves is fantastic.'

Even within Christian culture there is a lack of in-depth interest in the Bible, he says.

'We love a pithy tweet-sized bit of wisdom.' Kerensa says he has been told, 'the Bible says "eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die".

'What they fail to point out is it is "the fool" who says that!' [in Luke 12:19-20].

He adds: 'Once you read it and the more you understand it the more it changes your life.' 

With nine stops limited to England this summer, Kerensa says there is the possibility to expand. 

'There is ambition to go further,' he says. 'I don't know if we will go for the world tour. Maybe one day.'

You can find out more about the Bible Course here and tour here