In my previous post I questioned the emphasis on having people remember the sermon’s outline. It is much more important that lives are transformed in the preaching of the sermon, than that listeners remember content (although sermonic content is critical). If we want them to remember anything, it should be the big idea of the message and its application to their lives.
In reality, what do people remember most easily? What do people come back later and remind us of, sometimes years later? It is not the outline. Usually it is the illustrations we use, the images we portray, the stories we tell. This leads to two simple, but important implications:
1 – Use illustrations. Seems obvious, but to leave a lasting impression in our listeners, we should probably consider using illustrations!
2 – Use illustrations that reinforce the sermon’s idea or purpose. Since a story or example is likely to lodge in the thinking and emotions of our listeners longer than most of what we say, it is critical that we choose those illustrations very carefully. What is the value in people remembering a cute or moving story that had only a tenuous link to the idea itself? This underscores the danger of finding a text and a message to fit an illustration. If the outline is a servant that should usually stay out of sight, then the illustration is a prominent and memorably dressed servant, but still a servant of the text’s idea and purpose.