Learn to Speak In Pictures





Speak in Pictures

My grocery store has them.  So does the gas station that I use.  So does the restaurant where I occasionally lunch.  What am I referring to?  Screens–lots of screens.  Pictures saturate our world.  Apparently, someone came to the conclusion that I can’t stand a few moments in line with my groceries without hearing and seeing the news.  At the gas station I am shown sports updates while I pump my gas, because apparently that’s what I want.  That’s the world that I live in, and I suspect that many of you would say the same, though you live in a different country.  That reality makes the topic of this blog post all the more important to your preparation for preaching: you need learn to speak in pictures if you are going to hold peoples’ attention in this picture-saturated world.

Where do you get pictures?

Pictures are available from a variety of sources once you learn to think of your message in terms of pictures.  As you learn to speak in pictures you will become more and more aware of how powerful they can be as the audience gives you full attention.  Here are some places to find pictures that will help you learn to speak in pictures.

In the passage you are studying

Many times you will find pictures embedded in the passage that you are preaching on.  Use those images to speak in pictures as you write your message.  Recently, I was reading The Banner, a Christian magazine.  An article by Mark Volkers, titled, The ‘Heard” Mentality” caught my attention.  He is reflecting, in this column, on Acts 17, where Paul is called a “babbler” by the Greeks in Athens.  The word translated “babbler” is a picture.  In Volkers’ words, it “refers to a small bird that goes around picking up seeds here and there.  It implies a person who doesn’t do much original thinking or research, but instead hangs around the marketplace and snatches bits and pieces of other peoples’ conversations and ideas and passes them along without a lot of thought.”  He just practiced what it means to speak in pictures as we all created a picture of this bird in our minds.  That gave us insight into some people we know as well.

You will find that there are thousands of such word pictures in the Bible.  You will have to search some good supportive material, like commentaries or others’ sermons to find them, but they are there, and will help you learn to speak in pictures.

Describing the setting

The narrative portions of the Bible almost always create pictures.  Mark 4:35-41 creates the picture of the disciples and Jesus in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  A storm breaks upon them.  It is a powerful thing to recreate and embellish the picture in your sermon, describing the wind, the bailing out of the boat, the frantic rowing, and the final desperate call to Jesus.  People will be with you as you speak in pictures with this one.  Then they will hear in a slightly different way the question that Jesus asks after calming the storm: “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”  Learn to speak in pictures in this way, and your people will have new insights into truth.


Telling stories is not only a great way to illustrate a passage.  It is also a way to speak in pictures to your audience.  Jesus is the ultimate story teller in this regard.  All of his parables are pictures.  I make reference to this in a previous post on illustrations. 

I’m writing this on a Sunday evening.  This morning I preached on Psalm 13, a Psalm of Lament, in which David prays to God, “How long…?”  I began with a story of a man visiting his terminally ill friend for the last time.  At the end of the visit, the man turned to say goodbye, and his friend said, “It’s all right”!  Something in the man rebelled at that.  It became a sermon, titled, “How can it be all right when everything is wrong?”

Creating pictures to make a point

A good friend of mine once preached on the subject of God giving us blessings so that we can be a blessing.  You find this idea many places, but specifically in I Corinthians 9:10-11.  In those verses our blessings are referred to as seed.  My friend created a picture of a farmer in Jesus’ day being given more and more seed, but instead of spreading it around, he just carried a bag of blessing that got heavier and heavier, until it was so full no more blessing could fit it and he could barely drag it around.  We could all picture it, and had a new understanding of what it means to be a blessing with our blessings.

Learn to speak in pictures and your people will be grateful.  If you want to explore this topic more fully, here’s a video by Bill Lampton, a speech coach, describing how this skill can be used to improve speeches/sermons.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *