Andy Wain asks how we find the modern-day parable.
The Sawi tribe of Western New Guinea, Indonesia, revered treachery, thus making Judas Iscariot their hero. Canadian missionary Don Richardson and his wife Carol found this a great obstacle in helping the Sawi relate to Jesus and the Gospel.
The breakthrough came from within the Sawi culture itself. A Sawi father when making peace with an enemy father entrusts one of his children to them – a 'peace child'. The Richardsons used this idea of 'peace child' to explain how Jesus is God's gift of reconciliation to the Sawi with great success as 70% of them now profess faith in Jesus.
This account is from Richardson's book, Peace Child. In this and other works Richardson shares his conviction that all cultures have something in them that can be drawn on when communicating the gospel: a redemptive analogy.
This raises an interesting question: 'What analogies are present in the culture of those we are engaging that might help their understanding of Jesus and grow in their Christian faith?' Examples of this might include a football fan's lifelong dedication to their team through thick and thin being used to illustrate Christ's commitment to us. Those keen on cooking will appreciate the need to balance flavours, an analogy for a balanced lifestyle of spiritual growth, work and family, and so on.
However, looking for these openings in our different contexts can be challenging and so it can be helpful to create analogies…
In Liverpool, we are exploring how sailing can be used to engage young people – both churched and non-churched – with the intention of instilling general life skills and spiritual discipleship. As each one comes off the water they have stories they want to tell of what happened and these stories then become the analogy for discipleship.
Take capsizing as an example; this is not considered a failure, rather an inevitable part of sailing – an opportunity to learn from the mistake, get back in the boat and set sail again. This can lead to discussions about how the young people respond when things go wrong in their lives, what they do well, how they might make better choices and what role Jesus can play in that.
Another example is explaining how knots can help us understand prayer; just as there are different types of knots for different circumstances, so there are different ways of praying for different situations. This creates experiences in the lives of the young people which can be used as analogies for discipleship.
Let's be creative; follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his use of parables to help people grow in understanding and faith.