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Are Your Illustrations Fact or Folklore?

December 15, 2009

Paul Grimmond (Sola Panel) has written a searching article for preachers, in which he challenges us to take care in checking the validity of our sermon illustrations (Do we Pass on more error than we realise?). Grimmond uses two common examples which aren’t true to the facts, including the theory that Jesus died by asphyxiation. He concludes:

Whether we like it or not, the parts of our sermons that get passed on most often are the illustrations. They rapidly become part of our folklore because the illustrations are the part of the preaching that captures our imaginations. This tells us something significant about communication. But if this is true, it also leads to a sobering conclusion: perhaps the facts of the text—the things that God most wants us to hear—are not always the things that are most easily passed on. All the more reason for preachers to work hard on communicating what the text puts in front of us, and all the more reason for congregations to keep reading the text.

A couple of searching questions he asks include:

What drives human beings to approximate the data to suit their own conclusions? 

and

…how often and how much do I gild the lily in my apologetics and preaching for the sake of bolstering my point?

Ok, I’m off to re-check a few of my prospective illustrations for Sunday.

(HT: David Armstrong)

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One comment

  1. This is especially important for stories one picks up off the internet. I try to check those on Snopes.com. And where I can’t get a clear authentication, I will say where I found it and say something like, “I don’t know if this story is true or not, but if not, it should be!”



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