What is a parable? To most of us who have been raised in the church or have spend much time on our spiritual journey, we have read, re-read and heard teachings on all of the parables of Jesus. If you use YouVersion for your Bible reading, they have a plan that will walk you through all of the parables of Jesus.
Let’s look at how a par·a·ble [par-uh-buhl] is defined:
Online Etymology Dictionary: “saying or story in which something is expressed in terms of something else”
World English Dictionary: “a short story that uses familiar events to illustrate a religious or ethical point”
Dictionary.com: “a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like”
OK…now with that as our backdrop, let’s look at why Jesus told his disciples He used parables. Take a minute and read a couple translations of Mark 4:10-11:
NLT: Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders.
MSG: When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight.
“Is it really that much of a stretch to want our facilities, campuses, commons and the like to communicate with stories?”
There are 2 words (or concepts) that jump out at me. Do you see them and how they apply to our blog series on “story”?
- Parables = Stories. I know that most of you are saying “DUH, Tim…do you think we are that stupid?” No I don’t…but I want make sure we do not gloss over the fact that Jesus was the greatest storyteller of all time. He used word pictures and mental images to convey the truths of life, love, evangelism, generosity, salvation, forgiveness, mercy, grace and virtually all of the spiritual gifts. He used culturally relevant stories to communicate His truths so that the listeners/observers could understand it. In fact, while all of the parables in scripture are relevant today to our lives, many reveal an even deeper meaning when we understand the contextualization Jesus was communicating to the specific audience. It is that little nuance that makes a story and storyteller great. Understand your audience (i.e. target market) and then communicate your story in such a way that will suck them in and deepen their understanding.
- Parables were for “outsiders”…people not already followers of Christ…people who did not speak “church” or religion. I would recommend that the word outsider is synonymous with what we would call guests in our church world. An outsider can best be defined as “a person or thing excluded from or not a member of a set, group, etc.”
In Christ’s day, this may have been devout Jews or the ultra “religious” or just curious passer-by. In any of these cases, they were not yet devoted followers of Christ in a personal way. They may have been religious or criminal. They may have been circumcised at birth or Gentiles. They may have observed all of the rituals and feasts growing up or they may have worshiped pagan gods…or no gods. They may have been rich or poor, dark or light skin, young or old, male or female. Regardless, they were an outsider regarding a personal relationship with Jesus.
So, who are the “outsiders” in your community? Do parables (i.e. stories) still apply in our approach to reach those people…especially if words are not spoken? If so, then is it really that much of a stretch to want our facilities, campuses, commons and the like to communicate with stories?
Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.