Apocryphal Illustrations

Apocryphal Illustration

The Tale is Told

A preacher ascends to his pulpit to tell the story of a missionary.

A young man answered God’s call to preach the gospel in foreign parts. The congregation was ecstatic. God’s praises were proclaimed loudly. He enrolled in Bible School, took the required courses. He built his life on prayer and study of the word. On completing his studies, he returned to his home. Again, it was all celebration. A week of food and festivities.

On the eve of his departure, there was a final service of prayer. He was commissioned with the laying on of hands. This young man implored the home congregation to prayer for him — every day, and every Sunday. Pray specifically for him, his ministry, and the tribe with which he would work. Promises of faithfulness in prayer were made. And with that, he left.

Ten years later, an unknown man visited this place for a prayer meeting. His breathing was haggard, he coughed frequently. Like his health, his body was broken. He walked with a limp. After service, he stood and in a rasping voice asked to address those gathered. He explained.

‘Ten years ago, I left this place with promises that you would pray for me and for my missionary labors in a far-off tribe. Now I have returned. Tonight, I heard my name mentioned not one time. There were no prayers for me, for my health, my ministry, or the people among whom I labored.’

His disfigurement made him unrecognizable, and when he told them his name, the congregation was stunned. Weeping followed. Many confessed their prayerlessness. Revival broke out all over again.

Apocryphal Illustrations

An apocryphal illustration is a fictitious story that is told as though it were true in order to achieve a spiritual end. Some may call this manipulation, and others may call it lying. But in fundamentalism, it is beyond doubt that apocryphal illustrations and stories get people recommitted to the Lord and perhaps even outright saved.

If your heart is right with the Lord, who is going to complain about that?

5 thoughts on “Apocryphal Illustrations”

  1. It’s like the stories about taking communion with son in your life, that the IFB preacher always told when i was growing up. I was so afraid to take communion that i was often the last one done praying during our prayer time before communion. I mean i could drop dead if I took it unworthy !?!?! I people in the story always did. Or the stories at youth conferences about teenagers who mocked the peacher then went and died in a car accident or ruined their “life for god” and didn’t go to the mission field or bible college. Even as a teenager growing up in IFB I through this cry to be missionaries or go to bible college annoying and the sing groups that came from the bible colleges as juvenile.

    1. Dear Adam Meester:

      Personally, I think the Lord’s Table is a great place for sinners … Of course, for sinners to receive sacraments might minister God’s grace and comfort to them. In that case, they might not be so responsive to pastor’s manipulation. Best to keep folk fearful and ever hoping to achieve. I seem to recall that during the reformation, Rome made such charges against Luther’s justification by faith alone. It’s fine to have assurance of salvation … but if everyone is assured all the time, it’s much more difficult to populate the altar …


  2. Sort of like the one about the teenager who felt God’s calling during the invitation, but wanted to go home and think about it before going forward, and then on the way home was killed in a car accident and went straight to hell.

    I’ve heard several versions of that one, based on the makeup of the audience. The “teenage” version is popular at youth camps.

    Come to think of it, some preachers would make excellent insurance or used car salesmen.

  3. Speaking of the Lord’s supper.

    This sacrament has become a mystical tradition, not at all resembling what we see in One Corinthians. The unworthy manner Paul spoke of has nothing to do with the contriteness of our hearts before God, but everything to do on how we treat one another when we are together for this agape feast.

    The problem was with those who came early, perhaps the wealthy, who set up the weekly feast and consumed it all before their working brethren had an opportunity to get there and participate, even to the point of drunkenness. This disregard of their fellow-brethren was the offence before God. I often wonder how our disdain of our “less comely” brethren affects our overall health and well-being. After all, we are told that it’s these very people that will receive the greater honor, while the dapper Dan’s enjoy less honor.

  4. Apochraphal illustrations. This post would have made a good Friday Challenge! I’ve got one for you (actually heard this one in a Pentecostal church as a kid, not an IFB church).

    A young man who lived back in the 1970s (or whatever the decade was — I wasn’t around yet) when miniskirts were in style, used to love staring at and lusting after women in miniskirts. He would go to church, go to the altar, and beg to be forgiven and promise to never do it again. The very next day, he would be gawking at legs again. He would go back to church, run to the altar, and rinse and repeat, as the saying goes (let’s just hope there were no miniskirted lasses at church). This kept happening over and over again, until finally he developed a terrible disease in his eyes and went blind.

    Moral of the story for the general audience: you will be judged for your sin.

    Moral of the story for young girls: your legs are shamefully sexy and must be kept hidden at all times. Furthermore, if you show them, you are causing some poor brother to sin and he might go blind as a result, and it will be all your fault.

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