Preaching Illustrations Illustrated

Preaching Illustrations Illustrated

We are considering how to use effective illustrations for preaching.  We continue that focus in this post as we look at preaching illustrations illustrated for better preaching.

In the last two posts we have considered the kinds of illustrations that connect with people.  We reviewed the ideas given by Haddon Robinson of the various kinds of illustrations possible.  We’ve given illustrations of the kinds of illustrations Robinson described as level 1 and level 2:

  • Level 1 is when your lived experience corresponds to your audience’s lived experience.
  • level 2 is when your learned experience corresponds to your audience’s lived experience.

Now we proceed to levels 3 and 4, as described by Haddon Robinson.

A Level 3 Preaching Illustration Illustrated

Now we come to the third level of preaching illustrations. The third kind of illustration is when what you have experienced, or lived, connects with what people listening have learned, or heard of.  What does that look like?

Learning in Haiti

Health clinic in Haiti

Some years ago my wife and I spent some time in Haiti.  She did health clinics in the northern area of Haiti, and I hauled basic health materials on our hikes to the clinics.  Haiti is known as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and we certainly saw the accuracy of that description.

When I got back from that experience, my preaching reflected what I learned and experienced.  Since the church I was in sponsored a missionary couple to that country, the congregation was aware of the situation in Haiti, though they had not lived it.

The Level 3 illustration

When we returned from our mission trip, I shared the story of helping direct people during a clinic up in the hills in one of my sermons.  It had taken a whole day of hiking to get to the place where we would offer basic health treatment to the people.

As it turned out, the people had come from miles and miles around to have children checked out, to get medicines, and to be diagnosed and treated to the extent that we were able..

At the end of the open clinic time, the team was having a meal in the pastor’s house in the little village.  I was outside, waiting for the team to finish up so that we could start the long hike back to our home base.

As I waited, a woman came up to me.  She arrived late, after the clinic was over.  She approached me, holding out a baby girl.  I couldn’t communicate with her because of the language barrier, but it became  very clear what she wanted.  She thought I was a doctor, and was begging me to take a look at her little girl.  As the team left she followed me along the path for a ways, continuing her plea for medical help.

That is a level 3 illustration that connected well with the people, as evidenced by the financial support they gave for the missionaries we had in Haiti.  I had lived it, but it corresponded to what they had learned and heard.

Level 4 Illustrations

When both you and your listeners have learned the same truth, that is the fourth level of illustration.

The Church that I am serving right now is working with a consultant to define their preferred future.  As part of that consideration, I was able to obtain data for the area in a one mile radius from our building.  I broadcast this information in the church newsletter, in staff meetings, in task force discussions, and to the elders, or ruling body of the church.

What We Found

Eastern Avenue Church

  • 65% of the people in our area are unchurched
  • 69% of the families in our area are single-parent households
  • A large majority of the people in our area have condemned what they see as the judgmental character of the church.
  • A majority of the people said that if they ever did go to a church again, it would be one like ours–and there’s a lot of content in that statement that I won’t share here.
  • The poverty level is much higher than the rest of the state of Michigan in our area.

This information that we have learned together is going to be part of the preaching schedule after Easter.

Other examples of level 4 illustrations might be what you and your congregation have learned about families, or parenting, or about racism, poverty and power.


These, then are some preaching illustrations illustrated for you.  As you prepare your sermon, see how you can improve your level 3 and level 4 illustrations.

In the next post we’ll look at level 5 and level 6 illustrations and when (and when not) to use them.