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Making parallels – a biblical concept
Telling it so it’s understood
“Every metaphor is an allegory in little” – C S Lewis
Every abstract concept must be turned into picture language if we are to understand it. Language is full of these metaphors and similes. Memory techniques create a set of memorable mind pictures for the same reason. The Bible uses this type of language constantly, or describes physical events which have spiritual meaning:
- “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul thirsts after You.“
- The passover lamb, crossing the Red Sea, 40 years in the wilderness.
- Fishing as a metaphor for soul-winning.
Jim Watkins writes in The Persuasive Person:
“...being able to visualize a message makes it more persuasive. When Christ became flesh and dwelt among us, He made abstract truth visible. We can’t see God’s balance of mercy and judgement. But we can see Christ saving an adulterous woman from stoning. We can’t see man’s lack of purpose without God. But we can see lost sheep. We can’t see a loving, caring God. But we can see Christ crucified. Christ’s life not only revealed God, but His illustrations put flesh on eternal truth. Rather than trying to explain faith, He pointed to mustard seeds and the hills of Galilee. Sin became visible as weeds and infectious yeast. Rather than preaching a five-point sermon on hypocrisy, Christ spoke of whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men’s bones and everything unclean. Hypocrites were poisonous snakes. These ‘word pictures’ pack more truth than thousands of words. We can see whitewashed tombs. We can smell putrid flesh.”
© James Watkins 1987, used by permission
Jesus communicated truth almost entirely through the picture language of parable stories. Wise preachers have used meaningful illustrations in sermons for the last 3000 years for the same reason. Spurgeon’s most famous lecture series was Studies in Candles - two long lectures filled with illustrations drawn from candles. He gave these lectures to show how easy it is to illustrate spiritual truth through everyday objects. “A sermon without illustrations is like a room without windows,” he said.
Of course, we must use illustrations which relate to the target audience:
‘The people in a remote village were very excited about the arrival of a television set. At first, their interest in the TV was great, that is for a week or two. Then gradually, no one seemed to watch it and they soon disregarded it. Soon afterwards, a visitor came to the village, and when he saw the television set not being used, he asked one of the villagers, “Why do you people never watch the television?" “Oh, the storyteller is better!” was the quick reply. But doesn’t the television know more stories than the storyteller?” the visitor questioned. “Probably so,” replied the smiling villager, “but, you see, the storyteller knows us!”
We can extent this use of parallel and take almost any subject of general interest or felt need as a lead-in to a spiritual truth – by finding some parallel within it. This is the Bridge Strategy which is so useful in online evangelism.
Short stories and poetry can be used within an evangelistic site.
related pages within the Bridge the gap & Using culture menu links
recommended books on culture, including free downloads
valuable online videos about web ministry