The Gospel in Pictures

Today’s environment is highly visual; television, web sites, video, and images dominate our lives. And, visuals created with new technologies are changing the way we ingest and process information. Welcome to our 21st century context for communication. 

As we think about sharing the gospel, the Master Teacher, our Lord Jesus, is our example for sharing gospel truths in a context familiar with the audience. First century Judea was primarily an agricultural society, so His context for teaching was the great outdoors, often using nature to communicate spiritual truth:

“The Redeemer of the world sought to make His lessons of instruction plain and simple, that all might comprehend them, He generally chose the open air for His discourses. No walls could inclose the multitude which followed Him; but He had special reasons for resorting to the groves and the seaside to give His les­sons of instruction. He could there have a command­ing view of the landscape, and make use of objects and scenes with which those in humble life were familiar, to illustrate the important truths He made known to them. With His lessons of instruction, He associated the works of God in nature. The birds which were car­oling forth their songs without a care, the flowers of the valley glowing in their beauty, the lily that reposed in its purity upon the bosom of the lake, the lofty trees, the cultivated land, the waving grain, the barren soil, the tree that bore no fruit, the everlasting hills, the bubbling stream, the setting sun, tinting and gild­ing the heavens,— all these He employed to impress His hearers with divine truth.”—Testimonies, vol. 2, PP. 579, 580.

For example, in Luke 15:1-7, Jesus, provides a powerful word picture with the parable of the lost sheep, providing a mental image that would have packed a punch to the audience of his day:

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

In our present age, technology is being utilized to powerfully communicate gospel truth in pictures – not word pictures, but motion pictures.

Specifically, I have been struck in recent years by the increasing number of faith based-films that are being produced. Some solidly biblical, others lacking. Yet, Christian film-makers certainly understand the power and potential impact of the gospel conveyed in living color. And when you think about it, it’s quite remarkable to be able to present Jesus to people who haven’t or wouldn’t step inside the halls of a church.

In 2004, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was released. I was a missionary to my Jewish people in NYC at the time. The run-up to the film’s release created quite a stir, not only in the Jewish community, but in the entire culture! “The Passion” has the distinction of igniting a culture-war firestorm unparalleled in Hollywood history. There were debates, radio and television interviews, along with various written articles all surrounding the film. But most importantly, the public discourse centered around the person of Jesus. The questions the film raised included: Who was Jesus? Why did He die did such violent death? Was that the end of the story?

My missionary associates and I wrote and printed a gospel tract we handed out on the streets of the Big Apple near movie theaters showing the film. We also had big placards that said, “If you like the movie, you have to read the book!” On occasion people would come up to me and ask, “What book?” “The Bible,” I replied.

What a tremendous opportunity to discuss Jesus!

As witnesses for Jesus, today we possess access to a myriad of delivery systems in sharing the gospel visually with people through technology, including dvd’s, broadcast/cable/computer television, YouTube clips, and films.

Interacting with the gospel in these ways can provide an excellent and compelling platform for discussion with others. Ultimately we can pray the Holy Spirit would use these visual delivery systems to powerfully communicate the gospel and draw people to explore the Bible itself, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

As you ponder your witness and how you share the good news, understand our 21st Century visual context and seek to maximize the communication of the gospel in pictures!

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29

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