LEWISTOWN - Religious leaders often use stories about their favorite Bible figures to get their messages across and those from local congregations are no different. Incorporating these people who embody values such as integrity, faith and sacrifice into stories can be a key tool in spreading the word.
The Rev. Pat Roller, of East Kishacoquillas Presbyterian Church, Reedsville, appreciates Jesus' outreach. She said he wasn't constrained by his environment at the time. He communicated with women, outcasts and sinners.
"He was a Jewish man that talked to women who were like animals at that time," Roller said.
She allows Jesus to help her lift up downtrodden people who, she said, are otherwise seen as unimportant.
Andy Meiser, pastor of Eschol Brethren in Christ Church, Lewistown, said he admires Joseph from the new testament.
Joseph was the husband of Mary, and his story is about sacrifice and integrity. When Mary was found to be with a child that couldn't possibly be his, he still took her for his wife. Everyone thought Jesus was the illegitimate child of Joseph, and he bore a lot of scorn.
Meiser expressed his admiration for Joseph because of his sacrifice. He said Joseph was in pain because he thought Mary cheated on him, but still tried to protect her reputation anyway. He said Joseph is an earthy, practical example for people to live by.
Meiser said people are always doing things to benefit themselves. They will try to keep their own image as positive as possible.
"I even do things to cover my own reputation," he admitted.
Rev. Bill Muldoon, of The Way, Truth, Life Christian Church, Lewistown, said he likes the identifiable Paul.
Paul's story is about conversion because Paul didn't believe in Christianity at first. He was confronted by Jesus, and through that encounter, he had a change of heart. Paul was the person responsible for writing much of the new testament.
Muldoon favors Paul because he's a good model for people. He said he was once a bad person, made mistakes and then found his way. He said people relate to what Paul went through.
"Paul was the strongest person in Christianity," he said.
Muldoon said Paul was the reason for the relationship Christians have with the Lord now. He plays out the story of Paul to get kids involved. He said this helps younger children understand Paul's story better.
"You just need to explain it in the right way so kids can understand," he said.
Paul also is a favorite of the Rev. Dr. James A. Barnes, of Milroy White Memorial Church, who said Paul does something totally against his beliefs and culture.
In life, Barnes said man is always trying to better himself. Paul's internal change is an example of someone changing permanently. If someone says they will be a more forgiving person, but someone hurts them and they're having a problem forgiving, then they haven't evolved.
"Hope for humanity is internal change ... external change is only temporary," Barnes said.
Pastor Gary Bellis highlighted Joseph from the old testament. He said Joseph represents integrity and always did what was morally right.
Joseph was a son of Jacob who was hated by his brothers for being his father's favorite. His brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery. Joseph was taken to Egypt and, while living at his master's home, the master's wife tried to seduce him. When he rejected her, she went to her husband with false accusations that got Joseph thrown in prison. It was learned that Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams.
Bellis said Joseph trusted in God no matter what he went through. He said Joseph's story talks about the dysfunction of the world. Bellis said the choices that are made are things humans can learn from. He said he teaches the story to children by talking about a main point of the story.
"I use an illustration to get on their level ... not as in-depth as adults," he said.
Dave Purdy, pastor of Evangel Baptist Church, Lewistown, likes an atypical figure, Habakkuk.
Habakkuk was a minor prophet whose reaction to God coincides with western culture. Purdy said Habakkuk didn't like how things were in the world and wanted God to change things. However, he doesn't agree with what God does.
"He (God) is blamed for bad things that happen ... not good things," he said.
He said Habakkuk's story is a perfect example of how people today are never satisfied with anything. He said people ask why God doesn't do anything about the horrible things going on in the world.
"Christians have the unanimous view that the country isn't what it once was ... a similar response to Habakkuk," he said.