Many realize Jesus told stories as a part of effectively communicating the gospel. In fact, out of 147 preaching encounters, Jesus told stories 86 times (56%). But let's dig a bit deeper. Because it wasn't the stories alone that made the parables so powerful. It was the combination of story, image, and metaphor. Jesus preached with a SIM card.
In the parable of the four soils, we find all three elements. Jesus told a story of a farmer, showed images of seed and soil, and also used metaphor by linking seed to the Word of God and soil to our heart. While metaphor may be the most unfamiliar of the three, it may also be one of the most powerful tools for teaching.
The unknown can only be made known through metaphor.
-via C.S. Lewis
Think of it this way. If I were to make the statement, "Schools are factories," your mind begins to think of all kinds of images, such as being bored to tears in your seventh grade algebra class. But what if I were to say, "Schools are well-tended gardens." Suddenly, your mind goes in a different direction altogether. Perhaps you think of an English teacher who encouraged you in your writing and who spoke life into you. Simply by changing the metaphor, I have altered the way you view school.
C.S. Lewis understood the power of metaphor. In an essay entitled "Bluspels and Flalansferes" he wrote about the challenge of explaining that the world is round to a race of people, Flatlanders, who only knew two dimensions. The only way to communicate the truth of the unknown is through the known-metaphor.1
In preaching to youth, this is what we do every week-strive to make the unknown of the Word of God known in a language which they can understand. As you prepare your message this week, look for these things in the Biblical text. Ask yourself, what is the SIM card? What is the story, image, and metaphor? Then set forth to tell the story, show the image, and re-sign the metaphor. As you do, I think you will be surprised at the increased effectiveness of your communication.
Follow Doug on Twitter: @douglaswitherup
Doug is the District Youth Director of NC and a teaching pastor at Concord First Assembly. Doug enjoys preaching and spending time with his wife, Camden, and children Cade and Ana, especially if it involves the lake or eating BBQ.
1James Geary, I is an Other. (New York: HarperCollins, 2011).