I’d like to ponder those things generally known as “illustrations.” I tend to refer to them as “support materials” to recognize their function. Or even better, I prefer to call them what they actually are, either “explanations” or “proofs” or “applications” since that forces me to be purposeful in how I use them. Notice I don’t call them “fillers” or “entertainers” or “treading waters” or “favorite anecdotes” or whatever. They are there either to explain, prove or apply what I am saying, otherwise they are not developing the thought or moving the message forward. Anyway, back to the point of the post – there seem to be two types of preachers when it comes to “illustrations.”
1. There are those who struggle to find, record, keep, select and use illustrations. After all, it does seem to take quite a discipline to create, use, maintain and then access a personal illustration library or database. I take my hat off to all who achieve this and use it well, but I know that many preachers are like me – illustration strugglers. Generally speaking, and this is very general, people in this category should probably do better with illustrations. Having said that, and it was only in general, but nevertheless, there are other ways to “illustrate” a message than the standard array of notes, quotes, anecdotes, personal experiences, etc. But that is for another post. For now, this category could probably increase the frequency and quality of their illustrations.
2. There are some, perhaps a select few, who seem to constantly overflow with illustrations. Every way they turn there seems to be three or four brief illustrations or passing comments that relate to the word currently before them. While it may be superficially something to envy for the majority of us in the former category, I would like to offer one observation to illustration fountains. It is possible to achieve illustration saturation. Sometimes in the preponderance of “interesting” materials the text itself can be lost.
Some struggle to illustrate. Others struggle to stop illustrating. Remember the goal of preaching is to effectively and faithfully explain and apply the Bible passage(s) for life transformation. The goal is not to bounce from important term to important term, filling the gaps with a string threaded with pearls of interest and offset with other biblical quotes in order to illustrate the gospel . . .
Some of us, perhaps not many, but some, need to be very wary of illustration saturation.