My high school custodian had a legendary ring of keys. He had keys for lockers, storage rooms, secret doors, hidden caches, and every outbuilding on the 60-acre campus. The ring of keys was so large, when he walked down the corridors you could hear them jangling over the cacophony of teen flirting. Problem was, he had so many keys he could never figure out which key opened which door. Consequently, we learned that if you really needed to get access somewhere, it was better to find the headmaster. The headmaster only had one key, but it opened every door.
I was reminded of the difference between the custodian and the headmaster while attending a conference where 6 presenters suggested a total of 31 different “keys” for success in Christian ministry. They had keys for assimilation, keys for discipleship, keys for homiletical relevance.
After three days, I couldn’t remember a single thing. I had been given the keys, but they were useless. These keys opened some doors somewhere, but they couldn’t help me gain the access I wanted.
“Keys” are common parlance for propositions—they’re shorthand tips and truths for how to win. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not memorable and, as such, they’re not super helpful either.
Perhaps this is why Jesus never taught in propositions. He never abstracted truth. He never supplied points or strategic initiatives. Jesus taught in parables. He answered questions with questions. He reinterpreted scripture to suit his context.
Which was why no one ever understood what he was trying to say.
My friend Doug provided an alternative to points and propositions, using the (now) anachronistic of a S.I.M. Card, where Stories, Images, and Metaphors serve to illustrate the content and engage the audience. Stories allow us to compare our lives to those of the characters, to pass judgment and to reflect on their actions, and to reimagine our lives in another context. Images are mental pictures, like little movies or GIFs that help us understand something quickly. Metaphors are literary comparisons that help us to understand the truth of one thing by comparing it to the reality of another.
You may not remember why propositions are ineffective—that’s precisely my point—but I bet you won’t listen to another boring presentation without hearing the jangle of my high school janitor strolling down your mental corridors.