There are certain concepts I teach over and over again, both from the pulpit and in the counseling room. Some of the concepts are easy and some are complex but all are helped with an effective illustration.
I probably don’t need to tell you that Jesus often used illustrations to “bring home” truth to His disciples. From wells, to vines, to washing feet, Jesus would use what was common and understandable to teach difficult spiritual truths.
To explain some of the common discipleship concepts, I have picked up a couple of helpful illustrations. I say “picked up” because rarely am I creative enough to come up with these on my own. Perhaps I’ll be listening to a sermon, or sitting in on a counseling session, or just “talking shop” with a colleague and I’ll get to add another story or object lesson to my arsenal.
Over the next several posts, I would like to share some of the illustrations that I use regularly. I’ll do my best to give credit where it is due as I explain the biblical concept and why I think that particular illustration is so effective. All of the illustrations that I’m sharing have connected with those I teach and have been greatly beneficial to my discipleship ministry.
The first is one I heard in a sermon by Matt Chandler, the lead pastor/teaching pastor of the Village Church. It “clicked” with me the first time I heard it, and I use it regularly.
I’ll call it, Bach and Biblical Counseling.
Principles taught: Progressive sanctification and discipleship. This illustration helps the counselee understand that it takes time and effort to grow and they shouldn’t expect perfection. It also reminds the counselor that we need to teach godliness, not demand it.
Illustration: I don’t know how to play the piano. On a good day I might be able to knock out “Chopsticks,” but even that’s pushing it. So, if you ask me to sit down behind the ivories and put a Bach concerto in front of me, I’m not going to be able to play it…unless it sounds like a messed up version of “Chopsticks.” You could DEMAND that I play the piece; “Play it!” You could attempt to guilt me into playing the piece; “Your wife and kids are listening, and they want you to play the piece!” You could pound the piano and scream, you could cry and beg and I’m not going to be able to play the piece because…I don’t play the piano!
If the demands and the guilt continue, I’m going to do one of two things. I’m either going to give up and loudly exclaim, “No one can do this and anyone who says they can is just a liar and hypocrite,” or, I’m going to put on a FAKE smile and ACT like I know how to play the piano. Either way, I’ll never learn to play the piano well.
What I need in that moment is a patient, kind, loving piano teacher. One that will start with the BASICS. “Here is middle C. This is how you hold your hands on the keys. No, not like that, but let me SHOW you how. This is how you play a scale,” etc. At first, I’m going to stink…I’m going to make all kinds of mistakes and I’m going to sound horrible. But eventually, after years of teaching and careful instruction, I will get better and better. And ten or twenty years down the road, I may even be able to play Bach’s concerto.
Application: I trust the application is obvious, but in case some may have been lost in the metaphor, let me explain the points of the illustration. As disciple-makers, we have to be careful about teaching the Bible in a way that DEMANDS godliness without helping the disciple live it. “Read your Bible everyday!”; “Share Jesus with your friends!”; “Don’t watch ‘worldly’ shows!”; these admonitions are not be bad, per se, they are just not sufficient by themselves. People need real-life help!
If we are not careful, we can do this in counseling. We’ll address an area of life in a session, then be frustrated when the counselee struggles to LIVE that principle. Applying biblical principles of anger, marriage, depression (and so on) takes time. People have built ungodly habits over years of sinful thinking and it will take time for them to change. And they need real-life, one-on-one help! We cannot demand godliness without “life on life” discipleship and we cannot guilt people to be more like Jesus.
In fact, many have tried to disciple with those methods and have done damage. Some people get to the point of leaving a church declaring, “You are all hypocrites!” while others have just learned to FAKE it. Either way, Christ-like living is not happening.
What people need is a loving, patient life-coach who will come up along side them. One who will take the time to teach the basics, fully understanding that it’s going to be a little “noisy” at first. Mistakes will be made and the feelings may get hurt, but the biblical counselor understands that discipleship is a LIFE-LONG process! With time and effective teaching, the disciple will learn and grow. And over a process that may take years, the disciple will become more and more like Jesus! He’ll play Bach!
That’s the first illustration…I’ll share several more in the weeks to come!
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What illustrations have you found effective? Share in the comments!
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