Illustrations are like the windows that let light in on your sermon. Of course the foundation of the structure is the Word and the points you draw from the Scripture, but the illustrations shed light on what you’re saying.
See? That was an illustration. I could have just said “Illustrations are important,” but illustrating it shed some light on their importance.
I use illustrations all the time when I teach. It’s a great way to liven things up, break the ice, be real, and have some fun. Plus, whatever you do, never bore people with the Word of God!
I get asked every once in a while about illustrations – where I get them, why use them, etc, so I figured that over the next couple days I’d answer a few of those questions and give a few of my favorite places to find illustrations.
Let’s start with a few of my least favorites.
Any Christians book store will sell you a book of 77 Million Sermon Illustrations. I picked one of those books up. Once. There might be 7 good illustrations in there. Books of sermon illustrations, in my humble opinion, can often give you illustrations that sound canned and pretty cheesy. I’ve even heard pastors try to tell a canned illustration as if they were in it. Maybe it worked for others who hadn’t heard it, but not for me!
Sometimes a little less cheesy are magazines like Readers Digest that have funny little stories in them. Again, not one of my favorites, but they can work from time to time.
We could talk forever about what doesn’t work, but let’s get on to some of my favorite that seem to work much better.
Let’s start with websites.
Wikipedia. “Anyone can write anything about any topic, so you know it must be accurate!” – Michael Scott from The Office
Wikipedia can be a great resource, but I’d encourage you to double check it. You never know. In fact, double, triple, quadruple check stuff you find anywhere online. You don’t want to give out a statistic or something that you later find out was wrong – that’s embarrassing!
Statistics can be great illustrations, but be careful with those as well. Make sure you’re quoting a reliable source. Some good sources for stats that I’ve found: National Retail Federation, The Barna Group, and Neilsen Media, just to name a few. They are reputable sources reporting on everything from how much money people are spending on what to how much TV kids are watching. Good stuff.
News is one of my favorites. Specifically funny news. If you look hard enough, there are lots of news agencies with a “funny” news section. A few of my favorites: Reuters Oddly Enough, Snopes: Weird News, and MSNBC: Peculiar Postings, just to name a few. I read through those almost every time I teach. There’s usually a gem (or 7) in there somewhere.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about my favorite (and in my opinion, the most effective) illustrations out there. See you then.