Illustration Saturation

When speaking in general, most people affirm the value of illustrations.  When speaking specifically, illustrations are sometimes the cause of frustration.  What kind of illustrations can annoy listeners?

1. Arrogantly Familial – Sharing the odd story about an in-home experience can convey warmth, humility, normalcy, etc.  It can also be a bit annoying to keep hearing about darling children’s spirituality, or rebellious children’s shenanigans, or holiday adventures, etc.  Frequency is key here, along with avoiding showing off.

2. Obsessively Sporting – Some of us preachers actually enjoy sport and even have loyalty to particular teams.  No problem, but it can be a bit annoying when the listener feels like the repeated beating of a certain drum is drowning out the deeper and more important affection in the preaching.  Frequency is an issue again, sensitivity to non-sporting listeners, and discretion isn’t a bad idea either.

3. Predictably Popular – So a certain film has been in the news for the past five weeks.  Can your listeners guess which illustrations you’ll be using before you preach?  Don’t try too hard to be “cool” – it usually backfires.  The ability to be subtle is key in this regard.  Many a good illustration was ruined by being too blatant.

4. Scarcely Believable – So you are saying that happened to you?  Did it really?  Some preachers have a tendency to tell stories that sound unbelievable.  Hear me carefully, even if it did happen, don’t lose integrity by sounding unbelievable.  And if it didn’t happen to you, stop lying!

5. Obviously Canned – Ok, so here he comes out with the quote from General Rommel, or Napolean, or whoever.  If you get it from a book of stunning illustrations, don’t be surprised if it sounds like you got it from a book of stunning illustrations.

6. Unnecessarily Extended – Maybe that was a good story, but was the point you were making in the message worthy of that amount of energy?  Sometimes a good story is simply too bulky to fit the location you want to squeeze it into.  This is annoying for listeners who lose track when the message loses its way.

7. Inappropriately Emotive – So you told me a tear jerker and now you want that emotion transferred to the point you are preaching?  Why do I smell a distinct odour of manipulation in the air?  Please don’t try to manipulate me, I’ve been getting that all week!

Maybe there are more that you would add to this list?

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4 thoughts on “Illustration Saturation

  1. Great list. I would add the funny story that is only very tenuously connected to the point being “illustrated”, but the preacher desperately wanted to include nevertheless.

  2. Okay, great list and something very needed. Here are some that I would add:
    1. The funny story (agree with Mark on this one) – preacher’s who try to be comedians – annoying.
    2. The “look at me, I’m awesome” illustration. Please don’t make yourself the hero of the story. It’s not appealing.
    3. The “world of fantasy and make believe” illustration. Example: Two turtles were having a conversation once . . . What?! Seriously, you’re going to try and help me in my walk with Christ by telling me a story about talking turtles!!

  3. i so agree with your sporting (de)emphasis. i attempt to have no more than two or three sporting stories or references a year in the sermon itself. someone needs to admit ph. 3:14 into the hospital–it is exhausted from overuse in sports metaphor.
    however, i must say, i think talking turtles might be fun . . .

  4. And I think an inppropriate level of disclosure about the preachers life and family. It can be embarrassing to hear some of this stuff especially when the preachers family is sitting there.

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