Sermon Illustrations

What is the one thing that everyone will remember about your sermon? Sermon illustrations are the bread and butter, a primary tool for the preacher.

Long after the occasion, even the text you use to preach from that Sunday morning will be forgotten. However, many in the congregation will still remember that unique illustration you used in the sermon.

Word Pictures

Word pictures speak pictorially--- start with word pictures, reinforce each point with word pictures, and end with word pictures or a summary of word pictures.

People generally think in pictures. Most people do not understand what you're saying until they can visualize a situation.

Avoid mental pictures which may lead your listener’s minds into images you did not intend. For example, “The phone rang the other day while I was in the shower.” Avoid any toilet on bathroom mental pictures.

Be gender specific. Speak to both sides of an issue that relate to the women and the men. Don't just talk about sports, fishing, or car racing. Include issues which speak to genders, or double your illustrations to include examples for men and women.

An example would be guys let their time be preoccupied with watching T.V. on weekends while women can't resist a good shoe sale.

  • Humorous illustrations
  • Serious illustrations
  • Dramatic skits as illustrations

Fictional illustrations should be prefaced by let me take you on a fictional journey or imagine with me this situation. This teaching method is actually practiced most by Jesus himself.

Biblical Pictures

The most powerful illustrations of the stories would come right out of Scripture which communicate the truth you are emphasizing.

Chronological Bible stories are a way to make the Bible stories themselves the sermon and the illustration. Plus it multiplies the usage and telling of the story because it can be repeated after the first hearing.

Visual Pictures

Movie clips are good illustrations if you are trying to get a specific point across to set the stage.

A visual illustration should stand out on its own, without any explanation. If you have to explain it then you should rethink using it. Let the illustration speak, it will say more without explanation. Like Vincent Van Gough’s “Starry Night.” Who can explain it, but we all can experience it.

Multi-Sensory Pictures

Make illustrations which don't require words but involve the senses. Use your creativity and try a multi-sensory worship service.

  • The hidden mint
  • The Fragrance of Christ
  • Fresh Bread= Jesus being the bread of life

Finding Illustrations

Staying Fresh and out of Dangerous Waters

Staying fresh is not a problem if you share from your own experience. Journaling is an advantage at this point. It causes us to record some events that we might quickly forget. A digital recording device or mini-cassette recorder will help you not miss those moments of inspiration.

  • On just about any search engine on the Internet you can type “sermon illustrations” and gain access to around 60,000 sermon illustrations. Usually categorized and alphabetized.

  • Specific names-- Remember when you use a person's name who is present they may only hear what you say after their name. So be sure to get their attention first.

  • Do not use illustrations about counseling our congregants. (Names or situations may slip out which could damage an individual or hurt your effectiveness as a preacher).

  • Give credit where credit is due. Do not share someone else's story as if it were your own.

  • If you are quoting from a book or using someone's sermon series idea give them credit for it and then personalize it and preach with passion.


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