Images in Preaching, Not Always a Challenge

One thing we all want to avoid is preaching in a way that resembles a lecture more than a living, vivid, full color message.  Somehow we want our preaching to fizz and bubble, rather than lying soggy and lifeless in the pulpit.  One thing we need to give attention to is vivid imagery.

When preaching a poetic passage . . .  such as a psalm, the writer will usually give us some very helpful images.  Why go hunting for new images when the psalm provides a resting child, restless hours fretting in bed, climbing the mountain toward Jerusalem, entering the city gates in procession, etc.  We need to work on relevance and be sure to handle the imagery appropriately, but handle it, it is right in the passage.  It would be a shame to waste the head-start we are given.

When preaching a narrative passage . . .  such as a parable or event, then the passage itself is an image.  Too often I’ve heard preachers at pains to explain the story, but the preaching lacks zing because they forget to actually tell the story.  Don’t dissect a story to death, allow it to live in front of people and let them observe its power.  Be sure to explain and apply, of course, but don’t fail to let the vividness slip by in your preparation.

When preaching a discourse passage . . . such as an epistolary paragraph, then you may have extra work on your hands.  Often the passage will be very effective and logical explanation, or even direct application.  But it may be so direct that it lacks imagery.  This will not be the case in most of James, but is often true in parts of Paul.  Just because it is prose and perhaps plain in presentation, do not fail to look for images that will help the truth stick in the hearts and minds of your listeners.  If the images aren’t in the text, then find them elsewhere.  But don’t preach image-free, that’s a real waste of an opportunity.

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