Saturday, May 28, 2016

5 Useful Sites for Sermon Illustrations

Last week as I prepared to preach on Trinity Sunday, and this week as I prepared to preach on Romans 1:1-17, I have been hunting feverishly for illustrations.  I've found typing in things like "encouragement illustration" and "faith illustration" have yielded some good results.  Here are some of the sites that I've been led to in my search for illustrations:

There are a number of illustrations for each topic which means that you can pick the one that most perfectly fits what you're seeking to illustrate.

This site has some of the same illustrations that I found at, but there were other ones as well.  The illustrations are retrieved by clicking on links.

This site is the Bartlett's Quotations site of sermon illustrations - short, pithy statements, mostly one-liners.

Most of the illustrations here are accessible, but some, which are marked "Pro," are only for paid subscribers.

This site is set up like with links to illustrations.

There you have it; five go-to sites for sermon illustrations.  Happy hunting!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"Broken Colors"

"Broken Colors" By Mary Owen, Celebrate Recovery National Training Coach- Feb 8, 2016

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Eph 2:10 NLT

I came across this famous painting by Claude Monet calledImpression: Sunrise. The picture portrays the early morning sun rising over a small rowboat and other boats in a foggy bay. Monet’s painting has been celebrated as the symbol of the Impressionist Movement in art. What I found fascinating in learning about it was the term I discovered called “broken color.”

This style first used by the Impressionists during the 19th century in French painting came from using short strokes instead of carefully blending colors and tones together. The results turn into a patchwork effect where it appears that light is mixing in with the objects and colors in the painting.

I love thinking of how these broken colors produce amazing works of art. In a way that’s a beautiful metaphor for what God has done through Celebrate Recovery. Millions of broken people have walked through those doors with their own unique shades, often dark and hidden in the shadows and unwilling to be put under any kind of light. We’re all part of the most amazing Impressionist painting ever created. God uses our broken lives and puts it on a canvas without changing our colors. Each of us brings our own unique stains. Yet when viewed as a whole, the final piece is a beautiful rainbow of intense hope.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

I want to ban the story that is vague. That vagueness is often seen in lack of detail: "There's a story of a man who made lots and lots of money. He found a family in need and helped them. By his giving, he showed the love of God."

We would serve our listeners much better if we did some writing and said, "Jon earned $650,000 last year, counting his bonuses and stock options. He was excited, because he and Betty needed only $80,000 a year to cover all expenses. He began to think about families he could help and bless. By their generous planned giving, Jon and Betty showed the love of God."

I want to ban the mono-genre illustration. I have a pastor colleague whose every illustration is from the world of sports. Another friend draws every illustration from politics and current events. To demonstrate a balanced and well-rounded life, I want to draw from the fields of literature, the arts, sports, military history, entertainment, and business.

Read it all.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Posted: 23 Jun 2014 02:58 AM PDT

Ballistic missiles know their target and they never change course. Once a ballistic missile leaves the ground, it’s going to hit the spot in which it is aimed, no matter what.

The problem, however, is that the targets got smart.

The targets learned to move while the missile didn’t.

For this reason, cybernetic missiles were invented. A cybernetic missile, once programmed, changes course with the target.

The cybernetic missile constantly calculates and re-calculates, changing course to stay with the target, no matter what.

A cybernetic missile knows its ultimate goal. It has no idea what it must go through, what twists and turns it must take, or what obstacles it must encounter to reach its goal.

All it knows is that it’s committed to make whatever adjustments necessary to reach its object.

My friend has changed. Radically so. But I’m just as committed to him and our friendship as I was 22 years ago when we first forged our relationship.

Throughout this whole shooting-match called “life,” God has called you to be like a cybernetic missile in many situations.

So no matter what changes in the lives or attitudes of others, remember to always Keep the Love On.

Source: Frank Viola

Monday, June 02, 2014

7 illustrations from Casey Graham of the Rocket Company

Here are seven interesting stories to save in your files, along with a quick thought on how you could leverage the story in a message.
  1. A Texas police officer writes a ticket, but folded a $100 bill inside the citation.  Read the story about grace.  God gives us a great gift, even though we are guilty.
  2. Wikepedia, the free encyclopedia that everyone writes, put the mega-staffed, super-popular Microsoft Encarta out of business.  Read the Wikepedia article about Wikepedia and remind your congregation that everybody is better than somebody.
  3. Chinese bamboo produces little outward growth for the first four years of its life. Though it’s puny and pitiful, there’s something powerful happening underground.  In the fifth year, the tree grows eighty feet!  We must cultivate our soul and understand that the root comes before the fruit.
  4. Starbucks reclaimed four shipping containers and made a pretty cool store.  They say the containers are “reclaimed, refurnished, renewed and revived.” Sounds like what God does in our hearts.
  5. There’s a 99.99% soundproof room in Minneapolis that holds the Guinness World’s Record for being the quietest place on earth.  NASA rents it to train astronauts.  Reminds me of what could happen when we heed the words of Psalm 46:10 and be still.
  6. Duffy Daughtery was the football coach for the Michigan State Spartans from 1954 to 1972.  At the end of one game, Daughtery sent in his kicker to win the game.  As the kick sailed through the uprights, the kicker looked at the referee.  Why?  Because he had forgotten his contact lens and couldn’t see!  Though he couldn’t see the goalposts, he’d practiced the kick so many times, it was routine.  This story might work great in a message on spiritual disciplines, Bible reading, consistent community or parenting.
  7. A famous violinist named Joshua Bell once played for 45 minutes in a Washington DC Metro station. Though he paid a $3 Million violin and had sold out a Boston theater just two nights before, only six people stopped to listen to his music.  What a great story to illustrate that we should never take people for granted.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

From Cornelius Platinga in Reading for Preaching (p. 22):

“Good writers typically supply a fair number of preachers’ “illustrations,” as we call them. The term is actually a catch-all for anecdotes, analogies, stories, blog entries, editorial opinions, famous tweets, incidents from history, memorable sayings, biographical profiles, statistics, snippets of dialogue from TV interviews, lines from Wikipedia bios, lines from poems, news reports, people’s comments on news reports, summaries of film plots, sentences from one of Bonhoeffer’s prison letters, and all the other fine things preachers gather, store, and retrieve in order to dress their exegeted text decently so that when Sunday morning comes the preacher’s sermon may appear ‘clothed and in [its] right mind.’”

Friday, June 28, 2013

3 Types of Effective Sermon Illustrations and How to Use Them

Because I believed the #1 myth regarding illustrations, I was one of those preachers who never bothered with them. I was heavy on explanation, light on application, and neglected illustrations.
What is the myth? That illustrations are for explaining your passage. I figured if I did a good enough job teaching the meaning of the text, I could avoid the trouble of thinking up illustrations.
Then Bryan Chapell convinced me that illustrations are not to help people understand the passage. They are to motivate people to apply the passage. You have to connect emotion to cognition before you get action.
There is no motion without emotion. It’s as true in the underdog’s locker room at halftime as it is in your pews on Sunday.

3 Effective Sermon Illustrations

In my journey toward being a more effective illustrator of God’s Word (and I am at the beginning of said journey), I have utilized these three types of illustrations the most.
1. The One-Paragraph Story. This is the traditional, textbook illustration. Little stories are effective when the conflict, climax, and resolution of the story make God’s people feel what is at stake in the passage. In your illustration you want them thinking, “What’s going to happen to so-and-so?” Then when the story is over, you turn the tables on them and ask, “What’s going to happen to you?”
My OCD has compelled me to develop a formula to fit this type of illustration into one paragraph:
Sentence #1: Provide a setting.
Sentence #2: Develop a problem/conflict.
Sentence #3: Lead to a climax. Make your people wonder what will happen.
Sentence #4: The resolution.
Sentence #5: Show the audience how the illustration exposes their fallen condition in a similar manner as your sermon text.
Sentence #6: Demonstrate how the Triune God saves the day in the gospel.
I’ve used this formula for personal experiences, examples from movies or novels or history, and even examples from bugs on Planet Earth.
2. The One-Sentence Analogy. One-sentence analogies illustrate two things effectively. One is the cultural context of a passage. You don’t have to go into great detail of what life was like back then. Simply compare or contrast the norms of back then with today.
My favorite way to use an analogy is figuratively through similes and metaphors. Use these for surprise, irony, conviction, or humor. I recently heard this one: “When God tells Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals,’ he’s saying, ‘Don’t track your dirt on my carpet.’” The effect is in the pithiness.
3. The Three-Example List. Lists of examples effectively illustrate contexts to apply the passage. Pastors are under immense pressure to prove that what they preach is practical. Instead of giving steps for application (they won’t remember them anyway), provide a quick list of examples to show how one might apply the message in various contexts. They can work out the steps on their own.

The effect is in the brevity

Don’t spend too much time telling your illustrations. What could be a one-paragraph story often grows into an entire page; what could be said in a sentence is often given a paragraph; what could be provided in a list often develops into a nuanced how-to strategy.
The net result is that we quench the Spirit by focusing more on the illustration than the Scriptures we illustrate. Therefore, make your illustrations as brief as possible, and only as long as necessary.

12 Steps to Strong Sermon Illustrations from Pastoralized

There are three kinds of preachers when it comes to sermon illustrations.
There are those who were born with the innate ability to snatch the most engaging stories out of thin air – often while preaching the sermon – and plug them seamlessly into their exposition.
Then there are those who resign themselves to illustration oblivion because they don’t have the natural ability. They think either you have it or you don’t. And they assume they don’t.
Jerks, also.
Finally, there are preachers who realize they aren’t naturals, but they work at it any way. They may never tell an illustration that goes down in history, but at least they will engage the hearts and imaginations of their congregation.
That’s you and me.
I used to not even try at illustrations. If one popped into my head, I used it, but otherwise I didn’t bother. Then Bryan Chapell convinced me of the importance of engaging the emotions of your audience in Using Illustrations to Preach with Power.
So I got to work. The twelve steps below – each a link to a full post I’ve previously written – represent my own scratching and clawing toward illustration improvement during week-in, week-out sermon prep. I didn’t come up with it wearing a velvet jacket and puffing a pipe while sitting in a high back chair in front of a fireplace.
But before we get to the twelve steps, I want to let you know something that I am excited about.

I’m releasing a free illustration ebook this month

This month I will be giving away an ebook called Show Then Tell: 52 Illustrations for Believing and Living the Gospel. (Update: it’s now available here.) It contains one ready-made, plug-and-play sermon illustration for every week of the year. Unlike other resources out there, each illustration connects to the gospel. It isn’t just a bunch of stories and anecdotes, it’s a bunch of gospel-centered illustrations.
So keep your eye out for it this month. You’ll be able to download it for free right here at Pastoralized.
Now, without further ado.

12 Steps to Stronger Illustrations

6. Develop an eye for illustrations when you are away from your study.
This is the journey I’ve been on as I’ve sought to get better at illustrations. Perhaps you have a few tips of your own. Please leave them in the comments!

I haven't posted here in a while, but hopefully the following link makes up for that.  It is an ebook with 52 illustrations.  ed.