Alright I will make this quick because talking about illustrations is just not quite as vital as some of the other posts we have tackled. And read to the end so you can see my word of caution about illustrations.
There are 2 ways I think illustrations can be used.
Illustrate your explanation
First I think sometimes it is needful and helpful to illustrate something in you explanation that might be
NEW to those who are listening
- New words
- New concepts
- New theological beliefs, or deeper aspects of those truths.
DIFFICULT to those who are listening
Sometimes there is a concept that is not new, but it is just difficult. And so it is good to illustrate that concept in your explanation to be sure the people listening get it.
IMPORTANT to a right view of the Bible
Often we come across important theological concepts that every Christian ought to know, For example: Justification is far more important for a Christian to understand than say the exact nature of the tongues that Paul speaks about in Corinthians.
So sometimes when it has been a while since we have discussed the concept, I will through in an illustration of that concept. Usually I have two or three ways to illustrate it and I will simply use that over and over. I think repetition helps make it stick.
Illustrate your application
Sometimes it is important to illustration your application, because it is very handy for people to see the application you are calling them to placed in life for them to see. I think this is exactly what Nathan the prophet does for David when he tells him the story of the rich man and the poor man. He places the calling out of that sin in a life situation that David can identify with, and then uses it to say you are that man.
People need concrete examples of what the repentance looks like that you are calling them to from the passage. Because we want to deal with the specifics of the passage aimed at their life and heart. And if we believe that the heart is wicked and deceptive then we should help open people up by showing what this looks like in life.
This is also a good way to bring the various age groups in the congregation into the sermon. Because you can state the application, and then show what looks like in the life of a teenager, kid, married man, or a single lady.
Word of Caution
I long to make sure I have adequate illustrations in my sermons. However that being said, I do not try to kill myself with it. Sometimes you can’t think of anything, you can’t make anything work without it turning into some really bad analogy that actually illustrates an error you are trying to avoid.
(You know that crazy analogies about the Trinity that never work!)
Anyway, I will finish writing my sermon and the last half of the week I will just think about my sermon over and over, and I pray for God to help me illustrate it, Many a Sunday I have stepped into the pulpit without a single illustration. And so be it.
If the illustrations do not just easily come and are clear and right on target, then just don’t use them. It is far better to just explain the text without any illustrations than it is to muddy the waters with your illustration.
As a pastor your time is valuable, and if you can you should try to illustrate the sermon, but you should not sacrifice pastoral, family, and other duties to spend hours and hours trying to come up with illustrations. Let them suggest themselves and move on.