Parables of the Kingdom (February 26–March 25, 2012)

Teaching in General

Dr. John D. Hendrix was my excellent Christian teaching professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville. He will be leading our education conferences for adult Sunday School teachers on March 18. Here’s an excerpt from his book, Nothing Never Happens: Experiential Learning and the Church, which describes an experiential Bible study model:

Experiential Bible study takes seriously our natural, spontaneous ways of living. In the cycles of daily experience, we consistently, either consciously or unconsciously, ask ourselves, “How do I feel about that?” “What really happened?” “What is this experience teaching me?” “Is there something about this experience that will be helpful tomorrow, next week, or even next year?”

Experiential Bible study uses a circular concept of learning and suggests practical ways of using it. Learning occurs when something we experience grabs us as it relates to a biblical text. We then draw meaning from the text, look back at the experience in a reflective manner, draw personal insights, and risk those insights in a practical way. This process is often experienced in our ordinary living. Experiential Bible learning can be defined as a relatively stable but permanent change in people that results from experience, biblical exegesis, reflection, and application. In “slang” (easily remembered terminology), the four movements are “Hook,” “Book,” “Look,” and “Took.”

….What happens when all the parts come together in the study of the Bible? We can only venture a guess. Learning is a thinking, feeling process of bringing our whole selves to the biblical text. When the thinking, choosing, rational process connects with the intuitive, emotional, and relational process, the sparks are ignited. We transcend the ordinary. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we experience revelation and are changed and perhaps transformed. We test both our experience of Scripture and our interpretation of Scripture in Christ’s body, the church, waiting for confirmation that “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).

Introduction to the Unit


C. H. Dodd offers the classic definition of New Testament parables, "At its simplest a parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought." (The Parables of the Kingdom, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961, p. 5)

The Kingdom of God
Inagrace T. Dietterich (in The Church and the Reign of God, The Center for Parish Development, 1995, p. 20) describes the kingdom of God this way,

The kingdom is God’s new order which is inaugurated in Jesus Christ and demonstrated in his life. Jesus proclaims and embodies the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom.’ Through faith in Jesus Christ, the new life of the kingdom is already available and experienced partially now. Yet is to be fully realized only in the future, in the eschaton (the end or final time). As Christians live ‘in Christ’ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we participate in this future in such a way that it provides the vision and motivation for our present existence, even as we pray ‘thy kingdom come.’ It is this eschatological [of the end time] aspect—the focus on the consummation promised for the future but already active in the present—that predominates in Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God. Through faith in Jesus Christ we are enabled ‘to participate in the blessings of the kingdom, to celebrate the hopes of the kingdom, and to engage the tasks of the kingdom” [Mortimer Arias, Announcing the Reign of God: Evangelization and the Subversive Memory of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1984, p. 90.].