6. Make Sure You’re Not the Hero of the Story.
Unfortunately, too many church people put pastors on pedestals. So, if you’re going to use yourself as an illustration, make sure you’re rarely the hero. For example, several years ago, during a message on pride, I said,
“The interesting thing to me about our ego is that it often raises its ugly head in ways we would never anticipate. In fact, this past week I was sitting at a red light at the corner of Great Seneca and Clopper. I was in my Infiniti, enjoying some music, the sun was out and I was in a good mood. In the lane next to me, a young kid in a little hot rod pulled up. His windows were down, his music was blaring and he was revving his engine. When the light turned green, I don’t know what happened, or what force overtook my body, but somehow my foot forced my accelerator all to the way to the floor and I blew the kid away. My first thought as I looked in my rearview mirror and saw him behind me was, ‘Yes!’ My second thought was, ‘I can’t believe I just did that. I’m a 42-year-old community leader and pastor of a large church and I just drag-raced a kid right near his school.’ What was that about? What caused me to do something I would never intentionally do? It was my ego. I just wanted to win.”
My people loved that story (and talked about it for a long time afterward). But the reason why it worked so well was because they thought, “Hey, he’s one of us.”
Note: This doesn’t mean you can never be a good example; it just means that you don’t want to do it too often or you’ll keep increasing the distance between you and them.
7. Make Heroes of “Normal” People.
If the goal of a great illustration is to help the people of your congregation not only get a point but know how to apply it, then I’d encourage you to make a commitment to finding and using illustrations of “normal” people who are living out the principle you’re talking about. Don’t talk about your devotions, talk about Sally’s. Don’t share your evangelistic encounter this week, share Ahmed’s. Don’t talk about your reflections about the missions trip you just got back from, share those from the people who went with you.
Is all of this harder? Absolutely. But serving God has never been about doing what’s easy. It’s always been about doing what’s required so that we may present “everyone complete in Christ.”
If you want to be a better and more effective preacher, if you want to connect more deeply with your people, and if you want to help them become more fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ, then I’d strongly encourage you to turn in your membership card to the Primarily Pastor-Driven Illustration Movement.
Some trends are worth bucking. This is one of them. I, and the people of your congregation, hope you will.