Illustrations: the 2nd Mile

November 17, 2009

A number of pastors in Northern Ireland (myself included) were refreshed yesterday by the teaching of Voddie Baucham and Hugh Palmer. As you would expect, both gave insighful biblical expositions, which were models of clarity, and power, in equal measure. In terms of the personal application: today I’m still chewing over what God said to me through it.

From a homiletics point of view, however, something else was impressed upon me. Probably due to my own glaring weakness in this area, I couldn’t help but notice  the masterful way in which, the two speakers sermons were sprinkled with illustrations.

Most of these illustrations were brief. A few were lengthy.  Some were funny. Others were deadly serious (like when Voddie shared his testimony, with tears rolling down his cheeks, in a moving conclusion about the importance of apologetics). Always, however, the illustrations shone fresh light on the point at hand.

 Bryan Chapell reminds us of the challenge to craft helpful illustrations:

…to depart from the abstract and uncover the concrete in the difficult and sometimes treacherous realities of self, other, and world – is the most rigorous of homiletical tasks [emphasis added]. The preacher must travel an intellectual ‘second mile’ to create illustrations that fulfil their potential. It is not a mark of intellectual capitulation to use illustrations. It may well be a sign of intellectual sloth and communication resignation not to use them. (Chapell; Using Illustrations to Preach with Power, 59)



  1. yes, but how do you find them: good illustrations? And store them? It’s just like I don’t have a sense for it.

  2. A book I have found helpful and have passed on to others is ‘Expository Preaching with Word Pictures’, by Jack Hughes, published by Mentor. I thoroughly recommend it!

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