Once there was a man who talked incessantly on the cell phone wherever he drove. Once in the phone zone he was oblivious to his surroundings. So on February 29 he missed his wife waving from her red car with a flat tire. Nor did he realize the bump on the road was a Siamese cat he ran over, the favorite pet of an autistic child. He nodded “yes” to the words of his backseat son who told him he thought he should turn right at the light. Not really listening he continued straight ahead. Later he broke his boy’s heart when he yelled at him for letting him get lost. He won a coveted contract but missed the ballgame.
Did you know that the preferred method of teaching for Jesus was telling parables?
Matthew 13:34,35—Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, He never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.” (NLT)
Jesus spoke in parables for multiple reasons. First, He knew that people would remember a parable. Even nonChristians can often recite a Bible story they learned as a child. Second, Jesus was more concerned about reaching the heart than penetrating the mind. The advantage of a story is that it is easily remembered such that the Holy Spirit can reveal its truth when the listener is ready. Jesus’ listeners were sometimes clueless to what His stories meant (see Luke 8:10). This is why He often had to explain them to His closest followers. If a person’s heart is not open, clarity of teaching is really not the point is it? Third, stories are popular in every culture and language and therefore invite replication. Fourth, parables provide an indirect means to deliver a strong exhortation. Fifth, parables deliver lessons from everyday life so that people can relate to the message.
If you are a preacher or a teacher, remember that your life is a story and you are surrounded by stories. Instead of lecturing (boring) people with facts and information consider sharing what God is teaching you in your day-to-day living! Yes, I know God’s Word will not return void and it is noble to teach it. But Jesus did not expound verse by verse through Deuteronomy. Speaking information into the air in the form of facts or points is a weak mechanism for ensuring memory recall and a poor means for reaching hearts.
Your life is a treasure-trove of truth. Why settle for methods that research already shows is weak when God has blessed you with experiences that will touch your hearers. Be vulnerable. Be real. Be fresh! (What God did in your life ten years ago is past history. What is He doing in your life today!) Don’t let the pulpit become the promoter of yawns. Don’t poison children into hating going to church! While you are excited about some Greek prepositional phrase, your listeners are negotiating the storms of life. They desperately need truth they can remember. Your sensitivity will mean much more to them than your smartness. So communicate effectively and if you are worn out, have the courage to let someone else share until you are refreshed!
And don’t measure your effectiveness by those exiting who say, “That was a great sermon pastor!” What do you think they are going to say, “Pastor X, you have a gift for making 30 minutes seem like two hours!” Ask them a week later what they remember or valued—that’s a better test. I don’t remember any sermon a pastor preached and I think I’m a pretty decent listener. What I remember are stories and real-life lessons that were shared from leaders willing to be vulnerable or creative under the leading of the Holy Spirit. You will know God is using you when your listeners share with others what you shared with them.
A parable is an earthly story which does not explain itself. Every one of us has an earthly story and the explanation of it is not to be found in its own expression, but only in the domain of the Designer of life.—Oswald Chambers in Baffled to Fight Better
©2006 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)