THE RIVERBANK NARRATIVE
Thousands of people, led by five people are at the bank of a wide river. Based on their respective gifts, they have to lead the crowd across to a large island:
Apostle jumps in first, but swims alone because if anyone can do it, he can do it. He faces poisonous snakes and alligators, and almost dies, trying to get across. Miraculously, he makes it, and then swims back, warning the others not to go his dangerous route because they are inexperienced. After he eats and gathers more supplies, he goes back across the river, facing the same danger. Now, being a great swimmer and communicator, he decides to build a rest house. It’s pretty bad. He begins to lay a good foundation, but the roof is unfinished, the walls are not painted, and there is no HVAC, electricity, or indoor plumbing. The house is barely good enough to provide shelter. Of course, he thinks it’s perfect for everyone.
Prophet swims the same route as Apostle. She is an excellent swimmer as well, and upon arrival, sees the shoddy house Apostle built. Rather than rest inside, she stays at the shore, calling the others to swim across, now! She warns them to hurry because a huge storm is coming — the biggest storm, ever! To prepare for the multitude, she kills all the alligators, but cannot kill the snakes because they are hidden under the mud. After all of that work and preparation, hardly anyone comes. This brings her to depression, and she isolates herself in the forest for three days. Afterwards, she returns to help Apostle finish laying the foundation of the house for the few who swam across. Although she thought she could do it, she soon finds out that like Apostle, she’s not that good at finishing and maintaining a house. Because of this, she runs back to the forest in anger and depression. It’s starting to rain.
Evangelist eloquently convinces people from all over, to cross the dangerous river. No need for them to swim though. He collects money, and builds a state-of-the-art, covered bridge for everyone to cross. The more, the better. The people love it as he leads them across. Afterwards, he tells everyone that they should become bridge builders, as there is nothing in the world more important than to build bridges as he does. Every other method of crossing water is inadequate. Prophet stares at him from the forest, in frustrated disbelief, and then goes back into the forest. Evangelist then puts on a pair of alligator shoes made from discarded alligator skins (from the ones killed by Prophet), walks past the rest house, and goes inland to see what else is on the island.
Pastor is among the multitude crossing the bridge, and upon getting across, cannot believe the horrible condition of Apostle’s house. With no other choice, he personally remodels the house, hires a volunteer staff, and makes the house far better for everyone. The remodeled house saves thousands of lives by providing them rest, shelter, food, and instruction on how to manage their new life on this side of the river. In response, the people go happily into the house, sharing great stories of the amazing things done by…Evangelist! Pastor is frustrated because no one understands the burden of the work he has to do. Also, people are bringing snakes into the house! Furthermore, Apostle also keeps coming to the house to fix things that aren’t really broken. Pastor wishes he would just maintain the foundation because his meddling is going to tear the house apart. And, where…is…Prophet?
Teacher also crosses the bridge, and moves to the beautiful house. He works very closely with Pastor. He instructs everyone in the house on how to kill snakes. Everyone loves the lesson, but they brush the snakes aside so they can continue to maintain the house, just as Pastor said. Soon, the storm comes (the one predicted by Prophet), and the snakes that were hidden under the mud become exposed. Teacher calls the whole multitude to go out and kill the snakes! No one responds. Then, Pastor calls the whole multitude to go kill the snakes. Everyone responds positively, but there are no volunteers. They ask to stay behind, to bear the burden of managing the house. Pastor is satisfied with that answer. Teacher isn’t. Nevertheless, Teacher and Pastor go to kill the rest of the snakes. Teacher spends a lot of time slowly separating them into groups, according to their breed, and kills them methodically. Pastor doesn’t have time for that, and flails violently at every snake he sees. He thinks teacher is too slow and immature to do this job well. Pastor is indeed effective, killing more snakes than Teacher, especially near the house. Upon killing the remaining few snakes, Teacher privately informs Pastor that he did not kill the snakes according to the instructions. Because Pastor did not group the snakes by breed, some of the remaining snakes can reproduce, causing more snakes in the future. Pastor feels horrible because he feels like he always makes mistakes due to his personal inadequacies and lack of support. He joins Prophet in the forest to cry. It’s still raining.
As both cry and lament in the forest, wondering why they ever had to cross that water, Prophet tells Pastor about an especially good swimmer among the multitude of people who crossed the bridge with Evangelist. He was good at killing snakes, and was one of Teacher’s best students. He spent most of his time maintaining the house. They find him and give him the name, Apostle. They then send him inland to another riverbank. Evangelist is waiting for him at the new riverbank with a new multitude of people. Apostle jumps in, first.We have to avoid the idea of thinking we don’t need these people because we have the Holy Spirit and our own relationship with Jesus. Ephesians 4 tells us why we have such people.