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PP100: Sermon Illustrations


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This slide show is from a class I taught at the Liverpool Mission Academy 'Pastoral Pathway' course entitled 'Sermon Illustrations.' The session discusses sermon illustration theory and demonstrates the use and effectiveness of illustrations.

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PP100: Sermon Illustrations

  1. 1. Liverpool Mission Academy PP100 Illustrating Sermons Clint Heacock
  2. 2. Learning Outcomes1. Articulate the main types of learning styles that sermon illustrations can help to engage.2. Evaluate the most effective processes that are needed in order to use illustrations in sermons intelligently.
  3. 3. What exactly is a ‘sermon illustration’?Is it nothing more than a ‘brief anecdote that accompanies a sermon’s propositional statements of truths?’
  4. 4. “…illustrations are stories whose details (whether explicitly told or imaginatively elicited) allow listeners to identify with an experience that further elaborates, develops, and/or discloses the explanation of scriptural principles.” Chappell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 176 (parenthesis his).
  5. 5. Is a sermon illustration the same as…• citing a statistic• giving a quotation from some ancient authority (like a Church father)• an explanation• a figure of speech or• an allusion to something else?
  6. 6. “With most quotations, allusions, and examples, a speaker refers to an account, whereas with an illustration, a preacher invites a listener into the experience.The lived-body details flesh out the illustration in such a way that listeners can vicariously enter the narrative world of the illustration.” Chappell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 176.
  7. 7. Sermon Illustration: Purpose“Sermon illustrations are not an afterthought that a preacher inserts in order to break up an otherwise fairly dry didactic preaching style.Illustrations, used well, seek to aid the audience to see in a more concrete manner how concepts relate to a theme that is being developed.” PP100 Notes p. 117.
  8. 8. Proposition or Sermon Theme (Abstract) Illustration (Concrete)The most effective illustrations ‘shed light’ or illuminate an abstract concept.
  9. 9. Steps in Expository Sermon Construction Organizing thatChoosing a Interpreting that Explanation of ExplanationBiblical Text Text that Text (Sermon) s on ati str Il lu (From Bryan Chappell, Christ-Centered Preaching)
  10. 10. “Sermons typically begin with an introduction that leads to a proposition that indicates what the body of the sermon will discuss.The body includes main points and subpoints that form the skeletal outline of the sermon and structure of the sermon’s explanation.The explanatory materials, which support the main and subpoint statements, as well as the sermon illustrations and applications flesh out the skeleton formed by the explanation’s points.A conclusion follows the body of the message, summarizing the information in the message and usually containing the sermon’s most powerful appeal.” Chappell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 135.
  11. 11. Explanations Illustrations Applications“Our minds need “Our hearts need “We needexplanations of the illustrations that application so thatwhat the Bible says so often touch our we have either theso that we know emotions or fire our confidence that wewe have grasped imaginations to are acting inthe thoughts and convince us that accord with the willstandards of our God is not a cold of God or theGod.” collection of conviction that we abstract ideas.” must adjust our ways.” Chappell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 93.
  12. 12. Do all illustrations have to be stories?Illustrations, when used creatively, can appeal to a variety of different learning styles.
  13. 13. Sermon Illustration Theory: Learning Styles Practical Learning Experiential Learning Proposition or Sermon Theme (Abstract)Conceptual Learning Imaginal Learning
  14. 14. Tips for Effective Illustrations• A good illustration enhances the understanding of a key concept or idea.• A good illustration is normally most effective if it illustrates one key point.• Some of the best illustrations come from telling Bible stories and letting teachings and principles come out of them.
  15. 15. • A good illustration makes difficult abstract concepts easy to understand.• In other words, a good illustration ‘sheds light’ on an abstract proposition or principle derived from Scripture.• A good illustration can act as the finishing story that seeks to challenge people to make a decision.• Be careful, however, not to let the closing illustration serve as an attempt to manipulate people’s emotions by means of a heart-wrenching story.
  16. 16. Potential Pitfalls of Illustrations• Listeners may forget the abstract point the preacher was trying to illustrate and will only remember the illustration itself.• In other words, the illustration can tend to overshadow or overpower the abstract proposition or principle the preacher is seeking to illuminate.• This illustrates the abiding power of narrative as a communication tool.• Thus sermons can easily degenerate into ‘mere storytelling’ for the sake of entertaining the listeners.
  17. 17. • Illustration theory may demonstrate that many are still preaching idea-based, explanatory propositional sermons.• This type of monological preaching is more at home in traditional churches, and has increasingly less appeal to postmodern audiences who are interested in participatory dialogue.• Thus before using an illustration to illuminate an abstract principle, we should ask in the first place: ‘What form is my sermon taking? Monologic or dialogic?’
  18. 18. We know that the ‘listening context’ is changing for churches and preachers, from a modern to a postmodern context.Therefore people today are looking for sermons that are less monological, and more dialogical in nature and congregational leadership that is less hierarchical.They do not desire to be passive recipients of the message, but would rather see themselves as active participants. How can we proclaim the gospel in such a context?
  19. 19. Preaching in a Postmodern Context“Preaching becomes less about the dissemination of ideas and more about relating to listeners with stories and life experiences……the relational aspect of preaching will be reflected in a deeper sensitivity and respect to the listeners. What preachers perceive to be an issue of belief may well end up being an issue of trust.
  20. 20. Before people ask, ‘What have you to say?’ they may ask, ‘Why should I even listen to you?’…The privilege of speaking God’s truth into someone’s life will not be granted. It should be earned.” Graham, Preaching to a Postmodern World, 78, 79. (Adapted from class notes written by Rev. Dan Yarnell & Rev Dr Andy Hardy, Springdale College, England)