More Reasons To Plan Effective Illustrations

 More Reasons to Plan Effective Illustrations

The last post in this blog listed several reasons to put your energy, time and creativity into planning effective illustrations for your messages.  In this post we will look at more reasons to plan effective illustrations for your sermons.  Many of the reasons that I’m sharing today are further explained in the book, Preaching Nuts and Bolts, by Brandon Hilgemann.

The Power of Illustrations

Effective Illustrations Connect Emotionally

In the last post I noted that stories connect emotionally with people.  I want to expand on that idea a little more here, because the best sermons appeal both to the intellect and the emotions, at least in my opinion.

There are some preachers who refuse to use illustrations much exactly for that reason.  It is the philosophy in some circles that you shouldn’t be emotional when you preach.  Emotion clouds the message of the Word, or so they think.

In my consultation with one church, I heard about a preacher who prioritized the intellectual approach to Scripture.  She may have thought that such an approach would fit with the congregation, which was highly educated.  I preached at that church a few weeks ago.

I tend to be pretty emotional, especially about grace.  In one of my first sermons, I told about my mother dying and the emphasis she put all of her life on God’s grace.  Needless to say, I got emotional.

After the service, two people made a point of saying to me, “It’s okay to show emotion.”  They said it as if it was still a debatable thing.

The interesting thing about showing emotion while you preach is that you will have everyone’s attention in that moment.  This doesn’t mean that you should manufacture emotion for that purpose, it just means that as you share stories, they will catch peoples’ attention.

Effective Illustrations Are Memorable

Think for a moment about a sermon you heard as a young adult and now remember.  What is it you remember?  Most likely, it is a story of some kind that the preacher told.  Stories create connections that help people remember concepts.

This is a bit challenging for some people.  I had a pastor in my teens who didn’t use any illustrations.  Why?  Because he was concerned that people would remember the illustration and not the point.  As a result, most people remember neither from his ten years of preaching in our church.

I have now preached for a long time, and in a growing number of churches since I retired.  People occasionally come up to me and say, “I remember when you preached on _________.  That story about __________ really meant something to me.”

Use illustrations because they will connect with peoples’ memories.  This is one of more reasons to plan effective illustrations for your sermons.

Effective Illustrations Grab Attention

I remember the moment I learned this.  It was not one of my better sermons, and I could sense the attention of people wandering.  Then I began a story from Church History, and all of a sudden, people were focused on me again.

Putting in illustrations will create moments when wandering attention is regained.

Planning Effective Illustrations Make Hard Truths Stick

A well-planned illustration can make difficult truths more deeply understood.  For instance,  In his book, Facing Your Giants, Max Lucado talks about the commitment to love people, and encourages people, especially married people, to remain true to their covenant of marriage.  Then he adds this illustration:

My mother illustrated covenant love with my father. I remember watching her care for him in his final months. ALS had sucked life from every muscle in his body. She did for him what mothers do for infants; bathed, fed, and dressed him. She placed a hospital bed in the den of our house and made him her mission. If she complained, I never heard it. If she frowned, I never saw it. What I heard and saw was a covenant keeper. “This is what love does,” her actions announced as she powdered his body, shaved his face, and washed his sheets. She modeled the power of a promise kept (p.131).

God calls on you to do the same. Illustrate stubborn love. Incarnate fidelity. God is giving you a Mephibosheth-size chance to show your children and your neighbors what real love does.

Imagine how people paid attention to this.  It gave them a deeper understanding of what covenant love is all about.

This post has given us some more reasons to plan effective illustrations for our messages.  I’ll continue this subject in the next post.