Compel Them To Come In

While searching for a Web 2.0 Bible study site, I found RedLettr, the apparent tool I was looking for, but it isn’t ready for use yet. I had the idea of making a social Bible study site myself, but then quickly realized how unoriginal the idea probably was. RedLettr sounds promising, but we’ll have to wait and see. UPDATE: I’ve been asked, along with only a few others, to participate in a pre-alpha run of RedLettr. Cool! I’ll post the juicy details as they come, provided there is no Google-esque NDA (I’m joking – there isn’t).

On to the story. While reading the RedLettr creator’s blog, I noticed a link to Evotional.com, which also sounded interesting. The “About Us” page best describes the purpose of Evotional.com, which by face value is not much more than a pastor’s blog:

The evolution of evotional.com is the convergence of three core convictions:
C1: The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet
C2: The greatest message deserves the greatest marketing
C3: The church belongs in the middle of the marketplace

Whoa! Talk about a forward-looking purpose, obviously intended for the “Media Generation” as I like to call ourselves (or “Millennial Generation” or more traditionally, “MTV Generation”). Evotional.com’s blogger, Mark Batterson, writes some interesting pieces, but one in particular used Luke 14:23 as the marketing slogan.

“Compel them to come in.” – Luke 14:23

What a great verse, I thought. We could use that to inspire and motivate hundreds of Christians to spread the Gospel in “compelling” ways. But I always need to see context, so here’s where Google comes in. First I headed over to BibleGateway and read Luke chapter 14 in my favorite translation (NLT). But, because BibleGateway only has Matthew Henry commentary (way beyond me in most cases), I googled “Luke 14:23” to see what others were saying. Put in context, Luke 14:23 comes from the “Parable of the Great Feast.” Here’s a quick sum-up for the unaware: rich man invites rich friends to dinner, rich friends blow him off, rich man’s servant gathers up poor and homeless from the streets, and then rich man tells servant to get anyone from the highways and outside the city and compel them to come in, and rich man declares his house will be full so that none of the original guests he invited could enjoy the feast. So as you can tell, it was one of those parables that Jesus told to the Pharisees. When I first read it, I could make connections with evangelism and relating the rich friends to people who reject God. So the “compel them to come in” slogan would work. But I dig deeper. Google searching gave me:

Andrew Wommack’s commentary on Luke 14:23 (an apparent televangelist, so I read this with caution)

A bible study on Luke 14:12-24

That second link especially helped in relating the allegory of the parable to the appropriate context. “Compel them to come in, ” as used by buzzconference.com and Mark Batterson, is not taken too horribly out of context, and doesn’t over-allegorize. But a word to the radical zealots: “compel” doesn’t mean crusade with guns blazing! In the context of the story, the master was telling his servant to “not take NO for an answer.” So in designing the media and creative culture of a church, we must compel our audience to come in. We should demand their attention. Create with such a quality that they can’t shrug it off as garbage or boring church junk. Does that mean an extremely loud and obnoxious local TV spot? Definitely not, since I said “demand their attention” not “repulse their affection.” Does that mean having a creative culture within your church (large or small) that incorporates arts, design, media and marketing? That is certainly a good start.

In the end, I had successfully used Google to study a passage of Scripture. Doing a search for “Compel Them To Come In” has almost 41,000 results. Some even have warnings against the usage of that phrase out of context, based on historical persecution. As with anything associated with the Internet, there are pitfalls and dangerzones to avoid, but be aware that Google can certainly provide you with a wealth of commentary on any passage. So until those Web 2.0 bible study sites are ready, Google is (rather, still is) your best friend.

Speaking of parables, during a recent study I had the feeling that some people were “over-allegorizing” the Parable of the Vine. At the time, the only phrase I could verbalize was “be careful not to extend the metaphor too far.” But “over-allegorize” is a perfect description of what we need to be aware of. I found some great Principles for Interpreting Parables, which include a rule for not over-allegorizing. What that means: not every specific detail given in a parable has an allegorical reference. Over-allegorizing and over-analyzing can suck the very life right out of an otherwise meaningful passage.

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Philip Cain

Ninja Master of the Series of Tubes, musician, audio engineer and geek. More about Philip...