Sunday, April 23, 2006

Illustrations and the primacy of the text

Some of the most memorable preachers tell the best stories; Bob Russell and Will Willimon come to mind, for example. For me, though, extra-textual illustrations don't come easily. For years I struggled each week to come up with fresh illustrations. Lately I've been leaning toward "letting the text speak for itself," although I sometimes wonder if that approach doesn't come as much from laziness as a desire for textual primacy. With that it mind, I was pleased to find these words from Chuck Sackett in the April 18, 2006, issue of Preaching Now:
Our experience is that people tend to remember the images and stories we use to illustrate our 'points,' but rarely remember the point itself. Those writing about preaching have argued for the past several years that we should 'let the text win' in the dominant thought (big idea, point) and structure -- at least then people can come back to something of substance, even when they don't remember our sermon per se.

I'm suggesting that if the very images, metaphors and illustrations we use are driven by the text, what people remember will draw them closer to that substantive message than if they simply remember our stories. Nothing benefits the listener more than having their hearts and minds anchored in a Biblical text.

I'm not entirely convinced, but those ideas sound good to me. Care to share your thoughts?


Blogger jeff said...

I have always found that using personal examples or events from my life is helpful. Not only can it help make a point but it gives people something to relate to me about. I think it is true that people remember illustrations better than the Bible, that's human nature. But I don't think that means illustrations are bad. I'd rather have them remember an illustration with a chance they may remember the point than have them remember nothing!

7:43 AM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, Jeff, for sharing your thoughts on illustrations. For better or for worse, I know that in hearing sermons I've sometimes been as much influenced by good illustrations as by the text itself.

8:27 PM, April 24, 2006  

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