the shape of leadership

The Top 10 Types of Sermon Illustrations

Resources to help drive home your message points

Influence Magazine on November 20, 2018

Perhaps the most challenging part of sermon prep is finding just the right illustration for a point you’re trying to make. A good illustration can make your sermon memorable for your audience, so it’s worth investing time and effort to find the best.

But where do you look? Here are 10 popular types of sermon illustrations. Drawing from these time-honored sources can make finding material much easier.

1. Stories From Your Life

The first, and perhaps the best, place to look for an illustration is your own life. Many in your audience would like to know more about you, and personal stories can make you more relatable as a leader. Your stories may be mundane or extraordinary, but they should always have a point to them. And make sure you are honest about your life. Don’t always be the hero of your own stories.

2. Historical Examples

Another place to find descriptive and compelling illustrations is history. Whether a war story, a sports feat, a political narrative or a tale of personal struggle, historical examples are rich in drama and human interest.

3. Personal Testimonies

Always be listening for powerful stories of God’s work around you. Keep a file on hand of the personal testimonies in your church to use regularly. Or borrow stories from other ministers — with credit, of course.

Your stories may be mundane or extraordinary, but they should always have a point to them.

4. Quotes From Famous People

Adding a quote to your sermon is a quick way to illustrate what you are saying. And with today’s online resources, finding them is easier than ever. The quotes don’t have to be long, but they must be relevant to your sermon.

5. Biblical Analogies

Weave in a Bible story that reinforces or illustrates the main text you’re preaching from — a story from Exodus to support your sermon on the Book of Hebrews, for example. This helps you preach more of the Bible throughout the year, and shows your congregation how all of Scripture points to Christ.

6. Research

When doing sermon prep, don’t forget to look at research from historians, scientists, sociologists, psychologists or any number of other experts. Using their work can help enhance the credibility of your own ideas. It also shows how God’s world lines up with God’s Word.

7. Articles

Don’t forget to consider articles from newspapers, popular magazines, Christian publications and online blogs. Your reading material can become a valuable source of illustrations.

8. Devotional Commentaries

Most scholarly commentaries are a bit too dry to quote from. However, commentaries of the devotional type often include thoughts that are just right for your audience.

9. Jokes

Humor can be a welcome addition to your sermon. If you’ve got a good sense of humor — or you think you do — you could try writing your own. Otherwise, retelling jokes is a long-held tradition among preachers.

10. Poems

Poetry can use simple words in dynamic ways. You may not be a reader of poems, but you hear them often. Consider using song lyrics, including those from old hymns, to illustrate a sermon point.

These are just some of the most common types of sermon illustrations. Use your imagination to find additional ways to get the point across the next time you preach.

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