How to Guarantee Your Sermon Illustrations Succeed

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 an e-book on illustrations that I’ll give away as a free download from this site. Now that I’m half way through it, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern that effective illustrations follow.

A formula for powerful illustrations

This pattern can be packaged in the following formula:

Start with something familiar + Reveal something unfamiliar about that thing + Connect the unfamiliar – but now understood – part of the illustration to the spiritual truth you want to communicate.

The familiar part is critical because it enables your hearers to visualize what you are saying. Nailing your point home by relating it to your message is a non-negotiable.

But most preachers go right from the familiar experience to the spiritual connection, cutting out the unfamiliar anecdote.

Why this works

Adding something new to what is already known accomplishes two things.

First, it creates a sense of awe and wonder. It’s the “I never knew that” effect.

Second, surprising your hearers with something new disposes them to receive even more of something new. Thus, you prepare the way for your main goal: hitting their hearts with spiritual truth.

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Eric McKiddie
Eric McKiddie is a husband, father of three, and Pastor for Gospel Community at Chapel Hill Bible Church in North Carolina. You can follow Eric on Twitter (@ericmckiddie).