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Couple uses power of illustrations to teach Scripture to congregation

LOCKPORT -- When Shelley Pfeil wants to illustrate the power of Jesus, she turns to her computer PowerPoint display.

"We've tried to teach like Jesus does, by relying on illustration, picture, portrait and parable," said her husband, Bible teacher Franklyn Pfeil, who leads a group for the recently launched Alpha course at Davison Road's Lockport Alliance Church.

"Today," he said, "we'd call these things 'graphics,' but graphics are as old as Genesis.

"We found that flipping through a paper Bible for dozens of Scripture references steals time from teaching," he added, "so Shelley projects the references on a screen behind me. I like Scripture in a foot-high font!"

Franklyn Pfeil, on a Bible literacy crusade with his wife, had a revelation several years ago, when working as a Niagara County social worker and designing a Bible curriculum "to teach everybody, all at once -- from the person who's new to the Bible, all the way to a professor in Bible college.

"It struck me how Jesus was teaching religious experts, teenagers and the illiterate -- all in the same audience. The way he did it was through picture language -- a parable about a sower and the soil. Parables about pearls, about wine and wineskins, about a father and his sons, wheat and weeds, sheep and goats. His pictures teach each person as much as he is able to learn.

"Our faith is based on his word. So, I thought, why not emulate his pictorial teaching method as well?

Franklyn Pfeil said he and his wife first "encountered" the Bible in the mid-1990s, around the time their sons, Frankie and Eddy, were born.

"I decided to read the Bible as a matter of general awareness," he said. "I was not spiritually seeking. I was 40 years old and had an outlook on life I was comfortable with."

Unbeknownst to him, Shelley was undergoing her own transformation at the same time.

"I walked in one night after work, and she was reading the New Testament aloud to Frankie, who was about a year old. That's when I realized that our old world had passed away," Franklyn Pfeil said.

The couple ventured into Lockport Alliance Church about 2001. Franklyn Pfeil, who holds an English degree from Buffalo State College, said he has had unlimited support from Senior Pastor Kevin Robbins, the elders and church members.

"They even found a way to give me a part-time staff position as 'assimilator' -- working with people new to the church -- which allowed me to walk away from my full-time job and devote more time to our various Bible initiatives," Pfeil said.

In Alpha, which continues through April 28, the congregation ponders the tough questions, including:

Is Christianity boring, untrue and irrelevant?

*How can you resist evil?

*How can you make the most of the rest of your life?

The free program takes place at 6 p.m. every Wednesday in the church Fellowship Hall and includes dinner. Call 433-3571.

The Pfeils also will help with their church's annual Eggstravaganza from 1 to 3 p.m. March 27, for children 2 through 10. There will be games, refreshments, prizes and an indoor egg hunt. Free goodie bags will be given to the first 250.

e-mail: lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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