Other Surprise Strategies to Keep Your Preaching Fresh

Other Surprise Strategies to Keep Your Preaching Fresh

In this post we are going to consider other surprise strategies to keep your preaching fresh for your audience.  This post is one in a series, and the first one is here if you want to refresh your memory.

Problems With Personal Illustrations

One of the other surprises that will keep your preaching fresh and alive for your people is the sharing of a personal illustration.  But first, a caveat: there are some dangers with using personal illustrations.  Stuart Strachan shares these four dangers of a personal illustration in a post on Pastors’ Workshop:

  • When you and your story become the normative expression of the Christian life, it can cause others to question the legitimacy of their faith, especially if your stories tend to consistently paint you in a favorable light.   In other words, if you are always the hero in the story, you will be held in too high esteem by your people.
  • Choosing only personal illustrations denies both the universal appeal of the gospel and limits the expression of the Body of Christ.  In other words, illustrations should be drawn from the broad experience of the Body of Christ around the world.
  • Sometimes the people involved in our personal illustrations don’t want to have those embarrassing, scary, emotionally-charged events shared with a group of people, even if they are Christ’s church.  Did your spouse or children give permission to share what is partly their story?  If not, you can get  in trouble with them.
  • Your personal illustrations are, gulp, not always the most exciting. Let’s be honest, we don’t come across life-changing, hilarious, emotionally-gripping stories every day.  In other words, rather than making your preaching fresh, using only personal illustrations can create a boredom with your preaching.

The Kind of Personal Illustration that Keeps Your Preaching Fresh

Having said all of that, a personal illustration shared in the right way at the right time can make people want to come back.  What kind of personal illustration works best?  Here are some guidelines:

  • Share your personal story only if it considerably contributes to the message.  I remember hearing Rick Warren, long-time pastor of Saddleback Church in California speak at a conference on preaching.  He was talking about the challenges of preaching and its impact on family.  He shared a story about a time his marriage was under stress.  It was significant.  It was moving.  In the context of this subject, other surprise strategies to keep your preaching fresh for your audience, it hit the bulls-eye.  He had everyone’s attention, because this was obviously close to his heart.
  • Share your personal story when it will be a surprise to your audience.  If they know you well, and you repeat stories that they’ve heard before, your audience will begin to tune you out.
  • Your personal story should allow your audience to connect with you on an emotional level.  It should be self-revealing, but show that you are genuine, a follower of Christ who continues to grow as well as struggle.

Keeping Your Preaching Fresh

In the next post, we’ll continue with a couple other strategies to keep your preaching fresh for the people who listen to you.  In the meantime, think about your next sermon.  How do you experience the subject of the message?  It is Lenten season as I write this.  If your sermon is about the suffering of Christ, share a time when you realized that it was your sin that caused the suffering.  If it is emotional, that’s okay.

In one of the previous posts on this subject, I referred to this study that showed that people don’t remember much of your sermons.   Here is something that should  impact your thoughts about sharing a personal story.  The study showed that people remember something better if it connects to emotion.  One of the best places to insert a personal story is when it evokes emotion in you and your audience.


So, this is one of the other surprise strategies to keep your preaching fresh.  This will keep your peoples’ attention and cause them to reflect more on how the Word relates to daily life.