12 Steps to Strong Sermon Illustrations


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

1. Give up your excuses for not using illustrations.

2. Recognize the little known role illustrations really play in sermons.

3. Fix your common illustration blunders.

4. Mine your sermon text for illustration hints.

5. Learn the secret formula for effective illustrations.

6. Develop an eye for illustrations when you are away from your study.

7. Look for illustrations in the right places.

8. Learn how Google can help you quickly find illustrations.

9. Use your computer to efficiently store and retrieve illustrations.

10. Learn how to use illustrations of various shapes and sizes.

11. Put your sermon illustrations in the right place for the right effect.

12. Evaluate your illustrations with this checklist.

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!

(Image credit)


  1. Good tips. I’ve been writing about illustrations in my blog recently, and although I’m not a huge fan of canned illustration, they can be effective when used properly. Looking forward to your eBook.

  2. Bill Borinstein says:

    Please send me new posts

  3. For me keeping an attentive eye for illustrations while I’m not studying is vital.


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