The Annual Easter Challenge
Finding fresh ways to tell an old story
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It should come as no great shock that Easter is a great opportunity to reach people who normally don't attend worship on a regular basis. Statistics show that while attendance goes way up on Easter, the spike is often short-lived and numbers revert soon after the big day is over. Such an opportunity should not be squandered with a "same old, same old" approach, especially when it comes to church visuals.
We've been designing worship media for twelve years, and every year we face the "Easter challenge." For us, it's been always been difficult to find new and fresh ways to creatively and visually present the familiar Easter story. Once you get past all of the standard imagery of empty tombs, crosses, and lilies, where do you go? Is it possible to create powerful multimedia for Easter that inspires, retains, and even transforms the influx of visitors who walk through our doors on that special Sunday morning? Obviously, we think this is not only possible, but also necessary.
Telling the story through metaphor
A great way to make this Easter all the more powerful is to use the technique of metaphor. Metaphor allows us to tell stories in ways that connect with the everyday experiences of individuals, believers and nonbelievers alike. We've come to define metaphor as a tangible way to express an abstract story, thought, or idea. Metaphor allows us to make the foreign familiar and puts the gospel into everyday language—both oral and visual.
Metaphor is sometimes perceived as an advertising industry buzzword with little or no place in worship. However, those who fail to explore the power of communication that comes through metaphor fail to understand that it was often the method used by Jesus during his public ministry.
In Mark 4, Jesus tells the parable of the sower, the longest parable in the Gospels (vv. 3-9). Afterward, when the crowds had left and the disciples were alone with Jesus, the disciples revealed to him that they had no clue what he had been saying. He took the time to explain the entire parable to them, actually spending more time on the explanation than he had on the parable itself (vv. 10-20).
What is really interesting is what happens next. Instead of concluding that such a creative presentation of the good news didn't work, he continued to speak in parables, telling the parables of lamp on the stand (vv. 21-25), the growing seed (vv. 26-29), and the mustard seed (vv. 30-32).The best moment comes in verses 33 and 34: "With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything."
Jesus didn't simply use parables as an alternative for the "dumb ones" in the crowd. He understood that to communicate ideas with effectiveness, he had to present his teaching in a way that made sense to his audience. Our audiences today aren't any different. People listen best when spoken to in a familiar language. This is the essence of metaphor.