Developing Sermon Clarity

Developing sermon clarity through the wise use of illustrations, examples and analogies will require an acute sense of timing, a complete awareness of homiletical construction and hard work.

 Preachers initially start with ideas that are couched in generalizations and abstractions.

They move from these unclear and uncertain propositions in sermon development to a clear subject and its compliment of attending explanations.

When fully developed a moral, philosophical or theological-biblical message will appear.  But our work is not done yet.

The sermon has begun to appear but it does not live yet.

This is where the exegete will use cadence and timing as well as his ability to restate, explain, validate and illustrate ---grabbing the attention of the congregation in his introduction.

He builds truth in the minds of his hears. And the primary tool that is used is the illustration.  When one illustrates it make truth believable.

 How Clarity Tools Work


  • Illustrations make clear what’s being said by the preacher
  • Restatement-repetition affirms the central proposition
  • Analogies & anecdotes is another form of illustration
  • Examples helps to make an argument gain acceptance
  • Application answers the question, “Yes but How?”

 Because to illustrate is a transitive verb it takes an object. And the main function of the illustrations is to illustrate something.

There is no such thing as a good illustration apart from its object. It simply shines light upon that which is in a dark place.

Of course, illustrations may aid in memory of the sermon point being made. They impute emotion to the point being made.

They create need and hold attention when abstract language may be foggy.  Finally, illustrations can be used to create rapport between the congregation and the speaker.

 According to Haddon W. Robinson, in Biblical Preaching (1980, 2001) ---

  •  “The most powerful illustrations are those where your personal experience overlaps your listener’s personal experience.”
  • “The second-best illustrations are those where your learn experience overlaps your lived experience.”
  • “The third-best illustrations come out of the speaker’s direct experience and overlap the listener’s vicarious experience.”
  • “The fourth and least effective illustrations speak from the speaker’s learned experience into the audience’s learned experience.”
  • “The fifth level of illustration is stories that do nothing in the hearer. They fall completely outside the listener’s awareness.”


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