The Term “Sermon Illustration” Is Broader than You Think

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 […]

The Easier Path to Sermon Illustrations

This is the third post on sermon illustrations that I had the opportunity to write for The Gospel Coalition. (The other two are here and here.) I hope it helps you to write impactful illustrations for your sermon this Sunday! Many pastors find illustrations to be the most challenging part of preaching. Challenges can seem […]

5 Types of Sermon Illustrations and How to Use Them

Perhaps you’ve read my post here “3 Types of Effective Sermon Illustrations and How to Use Them“. Well, I recently had the opportunity to expand it to five types for an article that ran at The Gospel Coalition last week. In case you missed it, you can check it out here. Here’s a preview: “One […]

3 Reasons Your Church Needs Sermon Illustrations

I had the privilege to contribute a post at The Gospel Coalition today. Here’s an excerpt: “There are several reasons why pastors don’t use illustrations in their sermons. Some pastors leave them out on principle, thinking illustrations steal stage time from the Scriptures. Illustrations, they say, are ear candy to keep people’s attention off their […]

Endorsements for My Free Sermon Illustration Ebook “Show Then Tell”

We’re putting the finishing touches on Show Then Tell: 52 Illustrations for Believing and Living the Gospel, which I’ll have available as a free download right here at the blog this month. (Update: it’s now available here.) I’m excited to give away this resource, and I hope and pray it will help you preach and teach […]

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. Jerks. Then there are those who resign themselves to […]

The Monty Python Secret to Creative Sermon Illustrations and Applications

How can a pastor come up with captivating illustrations on a weekly basis? What does it take to think up applications that actually lead toward change in your congregation? Where does that creativity come from? These topics are common in my sermon coaching conversations. Interpreting the passage accurately is hard enough. But it is only […]

How to Preach to Every Culture in a Single Sermon

I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s Center Church, these days, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. In his section on contextualization, Keller points out the importance of preaching in a way that is culturally relevant to your audience. The reason is that different cultures respond to different kinds of preaching. Keller writes: Contextualized gospel communication will adapt […]

A Sermon Illustration on the Unity of Scriptural Truth from Lloyd-Jones

From Fellowship with God, the first volume of Lloyd-Jones’ sermons on 1 John: “The light of truth is like the natural light; it can be broken up by prism into a large number of subsidiary colours which together form that perfect light. And so it is with the Scriptures, all from God, all in-breathed by the Hol Spirit, all perfectly […]

How to Follow a Wild Goose Chase to a Powerful Sermon Illustration

The sermon prep process often grinds to a halt when it’s time to choose illustrations. Bridging the gap between doctrine and doing is difficult. You end up sitting back in your chair, staring off into space, hoping the perfect illustration gets zapped into your brain. Instead of wasting time looking for the illustration on the […]

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 […]

3 Common Sermon Illustration Mistakes And the Easy Way to Fix Them

Even though illustrations are meant to draw your congregation into your sermon, many pastors tell illustrations that push people away. It’s like trying to catch butterflies with a ping pong paddle. And everyone in the pews wishes they had stayed in their cocoons that morning. The really bad part is that we think the paddle […]

5 Laws for the First Sentence of Your Sermon

So often the hardest part of preaching is getting the darn thing started. You feel pressure to garner attention, to start with momentum, and to introduce your text. Sometimes these compete with each other. If your text isn’t the most riveting passage of the Bible, how can you introduce it and demand attention? Here are […]

A Formula for Sermon Illustrations That Always Work

It’s deflating when you tell an illustration and it falls as flat as last week’s Diet Coke. You thought it was a jaw-dropper, but it turned out to be an eye-drooper. What changes can you make to your illustrations so you can tell them with more power? I’ve been working on ebook on illustrations that […]

How to Preach Like Phil Ryken and Duane Litfin Without Sounding Like Them

Ever wondered how to preach like a Wheaton College president? This spring, Phil Ryken and Duane Litfin each gave a seminar on preaching for our pastors and pastoral residents at my church. Both men are seasoned and gifted preachers, in addition to being the current and former presidents of Wheaton College, respectively. Each presentation was […]

The Value of Sermon Introductions: How to Stop Giving Your Congregation Theological Whiplash

Too often pastors start their sermons full speed ahead. This is a negative result of a good thing. There is a resurgence of theologically mindful young pastors who are eager to get their congregations excited about the deep things of God. We don’t need less of that. That said, over eagerness will cause a pastor […]

The 5 Elements of the Perfect Sermon Illustration

It’s a challenge for theologically inclined preachers like you and me to illustrate well. I’ve grown very, very slowly in this regard. You’re probably not as a late of a bloomer as me. I recently went through every sermon outline on my hard drive to perform a personal “illustration audit.” I was doing research for […]

3 Things Photographers Can Teach You about Developing an Eye for Sermon Illustrations

“I just can’t find any good illustrations.” “I just can’t think up any good illustrations.” Those were my top two excuses for not prioritizing illustrations in my early preaching days. I wonder if you feel that way, too. The solution is not finding illustrations when you need them, but to find them before you need them. Thing […]

The Best 3 Places to Find Sermon Illustrations: From Jay Z to Brian Regan to (Almost) Plagiarizing

Pastors are always on the hunt for sermon illustrations. But perhaps you’ve noticed that illustrations from “sermon illustration books” and websites feel like you’re wearing someone else’s clothes. You have to do some tailoring to make them fit right. But even as you tell the reshaped story, it still doesn’t feel like yours. The power […]

Why Sermon Illustrations Do More than Entertain

From Bryan Chapell in Using Illustrations to Preach with Power (14-15): The mind yearns for, and needs, the concrete to anchor the abstract. To say that illustrations aid the intellect, however, does not mean that they are merely a congnitive crutch. Illustrations are not supplemental to good exposition; they are a necessary form of exposition […]

Build an Illustration File That’s Easy to Use with Evernote

Has the time and effort of building and using an illustration file caused you to stop using yours? Is that the reason you haven’t bothered to put an illustration file together in the first place? Yet the merits of having illustrations filed away can’t be overstated. Having them on hand is much easier than thinking […]

How to Crank the Impact of Your Sermon Illustrations Up to 11

I thought Spinal Tap was pretty funny. I’m not sure if pastors are supposed to admit that. One of the classic scenes is when lead guitarist, Nigel Tufnel, shows his amp that goes up to 11. It gives him that extra boost he needs to rock it out just a little more. (I once had a […]

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, […]

Introductions: 3 Things That Will Get Your Sermon Off to an Effective Start

90 seconds is all you get. You get 90 seconds to convince your listeners that the next 35 minutes will be worth their undivided attention. Jokes will keep their attention as long as you’re funny. Stories will keep their attention as long as you’re interesting. But sooner or later (hopefully not later), you have to […]