The pastor of the church I grew up in made a practice of going door to door in our community. He would ask people if they went to church, tell them about Skamania Church, and explain the Gospel. You might roll your eyes at the idea of door to door ministry, but Pastor Dave was a likable guy, and he did have the personality to do it.
He would often take the youth in our church along with him for these trips. I was one of these privileged youth, so I got to witness Pastor Dave chat with people about church and Jesus.
One of the reoccurring illustrations that Pastor Dave used in this door to door context was insurance. He told people stories of families whose house had burned down without insurance. People generally responded to Dave by expressing their empathy toward these poor folks in their unfortunate situation. Pastor Dave then went for the kill: Jesus is like insurance, and you never know when you’re gonna go.
Sometimes people asked him to take his preaching elsewhere. And to be sure, this might have been a bit of a pragmatic method of evangelism. However, people heard the Gospel.
I tell this story because I believe something seriously metaphysical was going down when Pastor Dave explained the Gospel. His simple illustration of the Gospel was a reflection of the meaning of our existence in the context of insurance. Insurance exists (as do all things) to proclaim the glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God willed that we exist in a world involving risk which communities must manage. These systems of risk management provide an image of Jesus. Just as Jesus entered into a first century Jewish culture and proclaimed that he is the True Bread of Life, the True Shepherd, the True Vine, the True King, so Jesus is able to step into our own culture and proclaim that he is the True Insurance.
So when Pastor Dave told people that they need “Life Insurance,” he was (whether he realized it or not) proclaiming the proper purpose and the true meaning of insurance.
This is essentially what preachers do. When a preacher uses an everyday instance to illustrate the Scripture, he is not merely using a nice illustration; he is declaring the proper purpose and true meaning of that instance.
This is essentially what missionaries do as well. The task of missions involves stepping into a culture which has never heard the story of Jesus, and communicating this story in the context of that culture. When a missionary uses an image from a culture to illustrate who Jesus is, he is declaring the proper purpose and true meaning of that image.
Preachers and missionaries are involved in the task of declaring Christ’s sovereignty in all things. As Timothy Tennent says, “Christ does not arrive at any culture as a stranger.”
Let us speak the Gospel of Jesus with confidence, for “The earth is Yahweh’s, and the fullness thereof” and “all things were created by him… through him… and to him.”