Illustrations and Preaching

I’ve been haunted for several weeks now and it’s time to come clean.  When prepping a message I wrestle with the desire for people to like me, think I’m a decent speaker, etc.  This isn’t anything new to young preachers, I  think it’s something we all can wrestle with from time to time.  I’ve come to really value sermon prep. time because this give me an opportunity to work through these desires and get to the text, the message, what is really important.  I’ve also come to dread sermon delivery time because I know that my flesh is raging to get out and say something silly for no other reason than to gain the favor of the audience (which is not always a bad thing and can be a productive strategy).

I guess the real struggle comes in when I ponder what people will take away.  Will the message be remembered at all?  Will the gospel be savored?  Will people be provoked to worship? Or will the take away be the wrong soundbites from the message?  Will they remember my personal illustrations, but not the point?  Will they remember that joke at the begging of the message that was loosely related to the topic of the text, but not the text?  Will lives be changed because God has spoken or will lives remain the same because in the end I’ve just been an entertainer?

To be sure, I have seen and heard illustrations that really helped bring the gospel into focus for individuals. (My pastor though years of experience is very good at this.)  I’ve also heard several illustrations that have ultimately been a distraction to the truth of the message.  It’s always fun to hear comments after preaching (less convicting when I’m not the preacher by the way) to see what people remember.  Statements like, “He sure hates cats” make me cringe because I know the observer missed the message and I’m left to conclude that either they are really dense or that I was stretching it a bit to bring my hatred of cats into the message (i’ve never heard this statement by the way… it’s an illustration… and I’m still not a fan of cats).  I can’t believe that so many people are that dense, so I’m left to admit that perhaps that was a bad illustration on my part.

My current train of thought is to explore strongly rooted Biblical Metaphor.  I had a chance to do this in the message last night with the expression, “and behold it was Leah” (Genesis 29:25) I didn’t fully exploit it at the time, but now see that I could have done more with it to help make the connection in peoples minds. (Wouldn’t you know it… the day after I preached the message I heard a Tim Keller Sermon where he does this masterfully).

This introduces the question I have for you.  What type of illustrations have driven a message home for you?  If you are a pastor or Bible teacher, what types of illustrations do you look for?

Review: Then Sings My Soul (special edition)

Then Sings My Soul Special Edition by Robert J. Morgan is a great book with background on 150 most loved hymns.  The collection of hymns centers on the holidays with the first sections being devoted to Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.  The assortment then moves on to patriotic hymns as well as classical favorites such as “Amazing Grace” and “Just as I am.”

The book is paperback and has a picture of a beautiful green meadow on the front cover.  The pages are roughly cut giving it an old world feel in a modern jacket.  The format is simple and clear.  Each song takes up two pages, one page contains the hymn (complete with musical score just like you would find in a hymnal), the other page contains the background information to the hymn.

I  highly recommend Then Sings my Soul to anyone interested in the stories behind the hymns.  I can see it being especially helpful and encouraging music ministers. The retail price is $19.99 (paperback), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $13.59.  I gave it five stars.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”