Do You Make These Excuses to Avoid Sermon Illustrations?

There’s a nasty rumor going around that says you’re either a natural at illustrations, or a dud.

There are some preachers who think so creatively that they call forth their illustrations ex nihilo while preparing their sermons in a chase lounge, sipping Arnold Palmers.

Then there are preachers who have two left brains. The toes of their congregation suffer every time they try a simple illustration two-step.

The fallacy behind both sides of that false dichotomy is the misconception that illustrations don’t take work. Either you’re so good at illustrations that you don’t have to try, or you’re so bad you shouldn’t even bother.

But the truth is anyone can get good at using illustrations in their sermons if the put forth a little effort.

If you’re more the guy holding up the wall, and less the guy breaking it down on the illustration dance floor, I wonder if you’ve consoled yourself with any of these excuses.

(I know I have.)

1. I’m not good at illustrations. What you probably mean by this is that you’re not good at thinking them up when you need them. A few habits will help you get around that.

If you learn to keep your eye out for illustrations, find some, and store them before your forget them, you’ll hit an illustration growth spurt hard enough to make a short high school boy jealous.

2. I’m not a good storyteller. Where the first excuse had to do with your reservoir of illustrations, this has to do with your delivery of them.

Maybe your aren’t a great story teller, but anyone can be a good storyteller. In fact it only takes six sentences to tell a good story. It may take thought and work, but, like anything else, the more you work at it, the easier it becomes. Keep your eye out for story telling tips, and you’ll get better.

3. Illustrations are just for attention and entertainment. This simply is not true. On the Christian side of things, Bryan Chapell has disproved this notion in his book, Using Illustrations to Preach with Power. On the secular side, in Made to Stick and Switch, Chip and Dan Heath have shown that illustrations are the cake, not the icing, of motivating toward change.

Besides those recent books, I know of another one that was completed around 2000 years ago that is full of illustrations. You wouldn’t accuse God’s Word of stooping to the level of ear-candy, would you?

There are plenty of other excuses to avoid sermon illustrations, I’m sure. These are just the ones I used to tell myself.

What are your excuses?

Are you ready to give them up and step on the floor?

(Image credit)


  1. I’ve made all of those excuses. I’m a logic guy, not a story guy. At the same time, I’m an analogy guy. If found that out in my philosophy program because that’s how you write most of your papers in college. Thankfully, I was an intern to a a great story-teller and preacher who know how to preach with power and utilize illustrations. He’s helped me immensely. A couple of tips to include:
    1. Ask around. My old boss told me there’s no shame in asking around to any of your friends or family you think might have a story related to a topic you’re preaching on.
    2. Work on sermons with other people. I’ve been in a couple of situations with team teaching approaches and that kind of environment helps you harness the gifts and talents of those around you to balance out your teaching. As I said, my pastor was a story guy, but I’m a structure guy. We would write sermons together and by the end of them they had the best of both of us.
    3. For those working in non-youth ministry positions: Ask a youth pastor. They have to use illustrations. They can’t get away with not doing so. Don’t be too proud to go ask a friend in youth ministry or your own youth minister if your church has one, how they do theirs. They have a lot of ideas.

    Okay, those are just a few. Thanks for the post!!


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