Illustration is a very powerful tool in delivering a sermon. Jesus Christ used parables in delivering his teachings. Though some parables were not clearly understood by his audience, rest assuredly, he has made his hearers think about it.
In our time, illustrations are widely used not only in preaching, but in public speaking, teaching in classroom, and even during presentations. Some were expressed through a story, some by riddle, some by plain narrative, some by experiences, some by demonstrations. There are lots of creative ways in presenting illustration. Though we may not be able to mention all of them, I do hope that this will be a good start to know them.
Where to Find Good Illustrations
There are many sources of good illustrations. Here are just some that you may want to consider to check.
The Bible – Great Biblical stories like that of Samson, David, Jesus, Jeremiah, Joshua, Moses. Etc.
Personal Experience – I am sure, there are lots of things that you can tell about your experiences. And these can be a good source of illustrations.
Newspaper Comics – I love this one, this is usually found at the end of newspaper with the cross word puzzles and movie list. The best thing on these stories, they are funny.
Illustration Books – If you have one, better. There are lots of illustration books now that you can find in the market. Some are good, some were not so good. But your main advantage is that, you’ll have now a better library of illustrations.
Internet – The dawn of the internet gave a big leap for sermon illustrations. There are lots of sermon illustrations that you can find on the net. I personally recommend that you subscribe for http://www.sermoncentral.com, best of all, they are free. They give free illustrations almost every week.
Stories and Movies – Stories you read and good movies you have watched can also be a good source of illustration.
Choosing the Right Illustration
Now you have the list of good sources of illustrations. The only question now is what kind of illustration are you going to get. Here are some guidelines.
- Choose illustrations that are relevant to your topic, particularly to the points of your sermon.
- Choose illustrations that gives clarification to each point.
- Choose illustrations that are good and clean, not worldly, and as much as possible touches Biblical views.
- Choose illustrations that are not offending nor vulgar.
- Choose illustrations that builds up not attacking people.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Illustrations
As we have said, illustrations are powerful tools but sometimes, preachers tend to abuse the use of illustrations. This is not good especially if the illustration that you use are vulgar and offending, and personal attacks on a person’s character.
Here are some tips that we can do to keep the use of illustration focused on the message so as avoiding criticism from audience and maintaining a good heart for listening.
- Do not use illustrations that are personal and attacks a person’s character.
- Do not use vulgar illustrations such as sexually related illustrations that has a thin line between a green joke and a plain worldly joke.
- Do not use vulgar words while illustrating something.
- Avoid the use real names especially if your illustration is a negative illustration and the audience knew that person personally.
- Use illustrations that are encouraging.
- Use illustrations that are clear and direct in its message.
- Use illustrations that are worth remembering.
- Use illustrations that are valuable.
Frequency of Illustration.
The general rule of thumb concerning the frequency of sermon is “one illustration in each point”. However, the use of illustration is not confined only with this rule of thumb because you can still use illustration in the introduction and in your conclusion.
This means that if you have 3 points in your sermon, then you can use as much as 5 illustrations in your whole sermon with the addition of 1 illustation at the introduction and 1 at the conclusion.
I do not suggest that you use 2 illustrations at one single point. Time will come that you will find it harder to look for illustration because you already have used most of it from your library.
How to Use Illustration Effectively
As I have said, there are many creative ways in using illustrations. Here are some of the best ways in using it.
- Use a good introductory illustration. Illustrations at the beginning of the sermon can set mood for the whole audience just right before they hear the word of God. In my personal observation, a good clean funny illustration is one of the best way to do this.
- Use good direct illustration on every point. I would say that it would be best if you have one illustration in each point. Again, do not over use illustrations in your point. Using too much illustrations might derail you and your audience from your topic.
- After giving illustration, be sure to explain the illustration pointing your audience to an application of the point. This will bring back your audience to the point that they have to learn.
- Use good conclusive illustration at the end of the sermon. From own experience, it is best if you do a demonstrative illustration. Meaning, an illustration like the “gloves and the hand”, the “clean water poured over the dirty water”, and some other like this. Conclusive, demonstrative illustrations are good at the end of the sermon.
- In giving an illustration, you also need to apply the common principles in public speaking like changing of tones, eye contact, giving life to your illustration, etc. It is always best if you can capture your listener. Here is a good post in my blog in getting people listening to you: How To Preach Effectively and Get People Listening to You
Have a nice illustration hunting!!!
Oh, by the way, before I forget, The Disciplers is also collecting more and more illustrations. Want to have a good start???
For the mean time, if you want to have a head start in illustration hunting, here are some CHEAP ILLUSTRATION BOOKS that you may want to have. Grab them now while they still have discounts (simply click the Title or The Book to see more details).
|Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More Than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking
By Moody Publishers
It’s Saturday afternoon, and you’re finishing tomorrow’s sermon. You feel prepared . . . except for one small detail—you aren’t sure how to begin! Now you can benefit from Evans’s 30 years of experience as a preacher and public speaker on topics including anger, baptism, gossip, discipleship, ungratefulness, mercy, and rebellion. 400 pages, hardcover from Moody.
|Preacher’s Sourcebook for Creative Sermon Illustrations
By Robert J. Morgan / Thomas Nelson
Light up your sermons with these bright ideas for adding punch to your point! Offering a dazzling array of real-life stories, illustrations, and quotes, this alphabetical compilation runs from serious and thought-provoking to heartwarming and humorous. Great for find-it-fast nuggets—or browsing for inspiration—it’s fully indexed, cross-referenced, and includes suggestions for further reading.
|Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes
By Charles R. Swindoll / Thomas Nelson
Nothing captures an audience’s attention like a well-told story—and nobody tells them like Charles Swindoll! You’ll quickly find the perfect anecdote in this cross-referenced resource featuring more than 1,500 entries in a handy topical format. It’s a lifetime of Swindoll’s favorite illustrations, quotes, poems, and more that will make biblical truths clear and memorable. 650 pages, hardcover from Nelson.
|10,000 Topical Illustrations from the Bible
By Charles E. Little / Hendrickson Publishers
Need to find an insightful illustration but don’t know where to look? Often the best and richest illustrations are those that come from God’s Word. Charles E. Little’s classic reference has been a valuable tool for generations of speakers, writers and preachers. Over 30,000 entries, including Scripture texts, illustrations and cross-references, have been assembled under almost 1,800 topical headings, providing a tremendous range of choices, from important theological themes to intriguing connections between the Bible and life. This book offers four reference features in one volume.